HOLLISTER, Calif. (KION) A rally against COVID-19 restrictions in San Benito County combining music with protesting happened Saturday evening at an amphitheater in Hollister.
The Open SBC event drew dozens of residents who say they are fed up with the state and county health orders. While the rally drew concerns from other county residents, organizers say it is meant to show that life should not be restricted under the pandemic.
Organizers are taking a measured tone: they are not saying everyone should stop wearing face coverings or stop social distancing if they feel convinced it is the best thing to do. They told KION they would support anyone's beliefs on how to handle the pandemic.
But they are saying they want the freedom to not follow the guidelines put out by the government.
Dozens of families and friends came out to the amphitheater on John Smith Road in Hollister at around 6 p.m. on Saturday. Almost no one was wearing a mask during the event. But it did look like families were spacing themselves apart from each other at least on the lawn.
The event was organized in part by a group called Open SBC, who believe county COVID-19 health orders were never justified.
"This is 100 percent non-partisan. It has nothing to do with being a Republican or a Democrat. This is a pro-freedom message," said Hunter Cuneo, an organizer with Open SBC Organizer. "I think we've all heard the fear messaging. We're here to provide the other side of that, so if there are two sides of this, it is freedom and fear. And we're on the freedom side absolutely."
They also say they do not believe there is a health emergency right now and that the government is overreaching. They also felt the closure of certain businesses during the pandemic while others were allowed to stay open was unfair.
"What this is fundamentally about is choice and civil liberties. And we understand that there are people who are very afraid. And we respect that," said Vedana Freitas, an organizer. "If they choose to sequester and wear a mask and do all those things, God bless them, we'll help them with that. But that fear doesn't override the rest of our rights. We also have the right to go out, to be in business, to shop, to not wear a mask."
Currently, there is a statewide mandate to wear masks in public just issued this past week. County health orders are still in effect, even as more businesses are reopening with the phased-in approach. Federal, state and local health officials have argued the COVD-19 restrictions have helped prevent the number of cases from skyrocketing and overwhelming local hospitals.
The San Benito County Sheriff's Office says they have been in contact with the organizers to ensure a peaceful rally. They will continue to monitor information about the gathering.