Charles Cole, who is running against Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett for State Assembly this November, showed up to Friday’s protest at De la Guerra Plaza, waving an American flag and wearing a “Keep America Great” hat. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Vehicles donned with American flags and poster-boarded windows flashing messages like “Remember the Constitution” and “Open Our County” jammed De la Guerra Plaza Friday afternoon in protest of the statewide stay-at-home order.

“I’m here because I believe the government is punishing us, and we really need to get back to work now,” said a protester who only identified himself as Jacob M. “I do think we should be careful about how we open up, but we should open all businesses now. Everyone deserves the opportunity to make money and provide for themselves.”

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The 100 or so vehicles flooded the plaza while honking and shouting for about 20 minutes before they drove down State Street to continue the procession. A handful of pedestrian protesters walked the center of the plaza, too. 

“I suffer from depression and anxiety, and since I’ve been stuck inside, my anxiety has gotten much worse,” said Charles Huffines in the plaza’s center. Huffines is the 5th District representative on the county’s Behavioral Wellness Commission, but he made it clear he was speaking for himself and not the rest of the commission. “People who don’t have mental-health issues will have them because of this unnecessary order.”

Although nearly all protesters appeared to share the stance that the stay-at-home order is an overreach of the government, not all were in agreement about the deadliness of the virus itself. While many protesters were taking precautions to wear a mask and most kept socially distant by remaining in their vehicles, other protesters yelled that wearing masks is akin to fearmongering. (A city order went into effect this Friday mandating that the public and workers must wear masks or face coverings at many businesses in town.)

Charles Cole, who is running against Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett for State Assembly this November, also showed up to the protest, waving an American flag and wearing a “Keep America Great” hat. Many who attended the rally sported pro-Donald Trump gear. Cole said that although he takes the virus seriously, he believes the order is unconstitutional and that businesses need to begin opening up. 

“I think we need to do it carefully and in phases, but Newsom’s phases are going to take way too long,” Cole said. “I believe everything should be opened up by May 15, max. Take everything the government says with a grain of salt; this is an overreach.”

Cole also added that he is donating his own blood in May to COVID-19 patients. He was joined by his father, Thomas Cole, and his campaign manager, Mark McIntire. 

“I’m here because nobody can touch beaches in California,” said McIntire, who was wrapped up in a large American flag, alluding to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Thursday order to close only Orange County beaches following an earlier report that he would be closing all beaches in the state. “It is nonsensical that we would continue to keep businesses closed and force people to lose their income, but then allow beaches to stay open because coastal advocates demand it.”

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