Amid increasing requirements for vaccination and mandatory mask-wearing throughout California, students and staff at local Californian schools staged walkouts in defiance of the mandates, which were set to take effect this week.
The protests were organized by parent and teacher groups pushing back against the mandates.
The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the demonstrations, which spanned all the way from San Francisco to San Diego, and from the San Fernando Valley to the Inland Empire, and even Orange County, coincided with vaccination requirements set to take effect this week for all employees in the state.
Under the new regulations, school employees can choose to get vaccinated and tested or have their jobs terminated.
“Word of possible sit-outs and other protests spread on social media over the weekend, with activists urging parents to pull their children from school — and teachers and other school employees to join them by staying home from work,” the publication reported.
“We’re fighting for the freedom to make the medical choices that are best for our children. We are fully prepared to pull our kids from public school and hire our own teaching staff if that’s what it takes. We do not co-parent with the government,” Tess Van Dusen, an event organizer, reportedly said, according to ABC10.
During the protests, thousands of parents, teachers, and their children, rallied in front of government buildings and schools, including in Sacramento where thousands protested in front of the state Capitol building, chanting the words “Our children, our choice.”
Other chants included “Our kids are not lab rats,” and “Stop the mandate LAUSD,” in reference to the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Local publications reported that most of the demonstrators came from a wide range of backgrounds from an equally wide range of opinions about the vaccine. Many did not identify themselves as anti-vaxxers and instead expressed their concerns about the state’s enforcement of the mandatory vaccination requirement.
“This is not an anti-vax rally, it’s a freedom of choice rally,” said one of the parents quoted by the Daily News.
“Not everyone in the group opposes vaccines in general, but they are concerned about exposing children to a vaccine whose long-term impacts haven’t been fully studied,” said the founder of one of the protest groups who refused to have her full name printed in the story out of fear of retaliation.
Many of the protesters were themselves vaccinated, but opposed the choice being imposed upon others against their will. For these protesters, it was not a political issue, but rather one of personal choice.
“I have personally been vaccinated. Half of my family has, half has not. But again, freedom of choice,” said Carol Runge, a former teacher told the publication.
“We’re not strong anti-vaxx type people, we just don’t feel there’s enough long-term data to justify this mandate,” said Russell Nord, a parent who attended the protest.
In August, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state Department of Public Health was issuing an order mandating approximately 320,000 teachers and school staffers across the state show proof of full vaccination or be subject to regular testing.