California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder’s “Recall Express” tour brought him through the Santa Barbara County Courthouse’s Sunken Gardens Wednesday afternoon for a rally that drew hundreds of supporters — along with around 50 counter-protesters speaking against the rally and recall — for a spirited, and for the most part maskless, event.
“Larry, Larry, Larry,” the crowd chanted as Elder — conservative radio-show host and the leading candidate challenging Governor Gavin Newsom’s seat in the September 14 recall election — approached the stage in the latest stop of a bus tour across California in the days before the election.
The tour took him through Venice earlier Wednesday morning, in a trip that was cut short after a protester threw eggs at the GOP candidate as he was being walked through the neighborhood’s homeless camps.
In Santa Barbara, Elder was well received by the hundreds of supporters who packed onto the courthouse lawn. A crowd full of “Make America Great Again” hats, signs reading “My Body, My Choice,” and traditional American flags alongside yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags listened intently when he took the mic, cheering when they agreed and booing when Elder mentioned Democrats, Newsom, or “the left.”
Elder’s comments challenged Newsom on small businesses, schools, crime, and the state’s reaction to the COVID pandemic, which he said was mishandled by the current leaders.
On crime, Elder took aim at major city district attorneys and what he calls the “myth” of systemic racism.
“We have two soft-on-crime DAs: One is in San Francisco, and one is in Los Angeles, and Gavin Newsom has his fingerprints on both,” he said.
Elder said “police engaging in systemic racism against Black people is a lie“ perpetuated in American culture and media.
“It’s a lie. It’s an absolute lie,” he said. “If anything, police are more hesitant or reluctant to pull the trigger on a Black suspect than a white suspect. Police kill more unarmed whites every year than they kill unarmed Blacks.”
According to Open Justice, a data-driven site which is geared toward transparency and aims to “strengthen trust, enhance government accountability, and improve public policy in the criminal justice system,” a report from the 2019 Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) showed that although white drivers in California were pulled over in higher numbers, African Americans were pulled over at higher rates in proportion to their population. They were also 1.5 times more likely to have action taken against them during a stop, and despite being 6 percent of the population, they were 30 percent of the nearly 500 victims of severe police force in the state during 2020.
Elder said that the problem is not as bad as it seems, urging supporters to recall Newsom and allow him to change the direction of the state. “The left is making things worse,” he said. “They’re dividing us, pitting us Black against white, cops against civilians, and I’m gonna stop that nonsense once I get to Sacramento.”
Elder also touched on COVID-related issues, like vaccination and mask mandates. Vaccines, he claimed, were fast-tracked to emergency-use authorization in 11 months. “The average time it takes for a vaccine to be approved is five years, so a lot of people think that’s too soon,” he said.
He received the vaccine, due to his age and concerns with underlying conditions, but said he defends others who choose not to.
Several members of the community showed up across Anapamu Street to speak against the rally and encourage voters to vote “no” in the recall.
“I’m here to fight the rise of fascism in the U.S. and in our state,” said community activist Chelsea Lancaster, who was among a group gathered in protest. She urged voters to remember to vote in the important election and said the Republican push against Newsom is straight out of the “Trump playbook.”
“We need to take it real seriously, and people need to vote no by September 14,” Lancaster said. A vote against the recall, she added, did not necessarily mean a vote of confidence for Newsom. “That doesn’t mean you love Gavin Newsom. That means we have an opportunity to elect somebody different if we want to next time. But for right now, we just stop this fascist right-wing attack on the state of California.”
Newsom has been holding events of his own this week, including on Wednesday in the Bay Area with Vice President Kamala Harris.
For voting info, please check sos.ca.gov/elections.