Pictured: Protesters calling for the stay at home orders and business closures to be listed on May 1, 2020 in Ventura. Photo by Kimberly Rivers. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com 

On Friday, May 1, thousands of people across the United States came out to protest stay-at-home orders and voice their frustrations over how the restrictions undertaken to stop the spread of the coronavirus have affected their way of life. Ventura County residents were among them, gathering in Ventura and Oxnard to express concerns over the lockdown, economic impacts and more. 

Residents rally for reopening at Ventura County Government Center

Several hundred people gathered at the Ventura County Government Center on Victoria Avenue in opposition to the public health orders requiring people to stay at home and directing non-essential businesses to remain closed. 

Howard Blasingame of Ojai protesting for businesses to reopen and stay at home orders to be lifted on May 1, 2020, at the Ventura County Government Center. Photo by Kimberly Rivers

“We are here to protest the illegal and unconstitutional lockdown,” said Howard Blasingame of Ojai. He said there is “no political or legal reason for it to be allowed, should have never started. America is going to hell in a handbasket. It’s not about toilet paper anymore, people are starting to lose their lives.”  

The group of protesters covered nearly the entire corner at Telephone Road and Victoria Avenue. Most were gathered in a thick line along the curb stretching a few hundred feet around each side of the corner. Cars honked in support of the crowd. 

Passengers in one small car, however, taunted the protestors while waiting for a green light, at one point sticking their tongues out at them. 

“I’m so proud of Ventura because all these people came out to support our freedom,” said Karen Robasciotti from Ventura, looking around at the crowd. “There are people hurting, small businesses around here. I’m old and I’m really patriotic and this brings tears to my eyes that all these people are here supporting freedom.” 

Attitudes varied on whether any closure should have occurred at all, with some at the protest acknowledging that stay-at-home orders have served their purpose. Most of the protestors were not wearing any face coverings and few were practicing social distancing — even though the online information about the protest asked participants to do both. 

Scarlett Lani of Agoura HIlls on May 1, 2020 at the ReOpen California protest at the Ventura County Government Center. Photo by Kimberly Rivers

“I feel like we’ve been good little boys and girls and we stayed in for 40-plus days, and it’s time to reopen California because more lives will be at risk from the fall out of poverty and depression and loss of jobs,” said Scarlett Lani of Agoura HIlls. 

KEYT reported, and video footage showed, that three people in nursing scrubs and surgical masks stood in apparent opposition to the protest. They stood quietly, with arms folded, in the median divider on Telephone Road, and left at about 12:45 p.m.  

At least one car drove by with a sign that read “We support our healthcare workers,” countering the position of the protesters. 

The event was listed online as associated with two groups, ReOpen California and We Have Rights, and was part of a statewide effort to apply pressure on Governor Gavin Newsom to lift the business closure orders. Some people at the Ventura event were wearing red t-shirts with “We have rights” printed on them with an eagle head graphic. 

As of press deadline, Newsom has stated that some retail businesses will be able to open by the end of the week. But social distancing restrictions and other public health orders are still in effect. 

The group is planning a second gathering, Ventura Live Free Protest, on Saturday, May 9, at 12 p.m. at the Ventura County Government Center. 

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VCReporter video of the protest on May 2 on Facebook HERE. 

Cancel rent car rally in Oxnard

Also on Friday in Oxnard, several local organizations hosted a caravan of about 50 cars to call on elected officials to support working families in the midst of  the coronavirus pandemic.  The caravan began at 10:30 a.m. in the parking lot for Food 4 Less at 250 W. Esplanade Drive in Oxnard, stopping first at the office of Senator Hannah Beth Jackson and ending at the office of Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin in Camarillo. 

Alex Garcia, CAUSE Community Organizer in Ventura. Photo submitted.

“This push is for our state representatives,” said Lucia Marquez, policy advocate with CAUSE, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy. “There is momentum around this at the federal level through the bill that has been introduced in Congress to cancel rent and mortgage payments by Rep Ilhan Omar.” 

When asked how the government would cancel rent and mortgage payments, Marquez explained the mechanism. The government is constitutionally restricted from a legal ‘takings’ that takes away someone’s property value without compensating them,” she said. “However, adopting laws that reduce short-term monthly profits from an investment (rents) without diminishing the permanent value of their property itself (the building itself) is well established as constitutional, especially during emergencies to promote public health and safety.”

The government frequently restricts rent through local rent control ordinances. The eviction freezes are a temporary fix that will ultimately create a “shadow” of rent owed that could become impossible for renters to walk out of. 

“The state of New York also  announced that they will be offering mortgage relief during the pandemic,” Marquez pointed out. “We want California to do the same but also include renters in the relief.” 

Other groups involved in the rally included Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), UFCW 770, Food and Water Watch, California School Employees Association (CSEA) and the Auntie Sewing Squad.