Written by Konnor Long (News Writer)
On Sunday, February 28th, a group of over 20 mask-less individuals took to the streets alongside Pacific Avenue, protesting citywide mandates that require citizens to wear masks inside of and in proximity to businesses in the downtown area.
This protest comes just eleven days after an unsurfaced video went viral showing a much smaller group of maskless individuals entering a Santa Cruz Trader Joe’s. Many citizens called for the city police department to take immediate action under the premise that the videos document the group committing acts of trespassing burglary, larceny, and robbery.
The Second Sunday demonstration, which garnered a large amount of public attention, was captured on camera by many witnesses. The Santa Cruz Police Department it’s currently accepting any and all the information pertaining to the individuals present at the protest. Officers have currently identified multiple attendees, with the hope that they will be able to write individual case reports for each person shown.
The video, entitled “Operation Love Drop,” appears to show the group of twenty or so individuals walking through Pacific Avenue and demonstrating alongside the Trader Joe’s where the previous protest took place. The video shows individuals sporting signs with phrases such as “Our Face, Our Choice,” and holding them in front of a few dozen businesses. Police cars are seen surveying the crowd as the crowd chants “reject nazism, reject fascism.” The video ends with the group marching down to the Santa Cruz Police Department and posing for photos as they chant “We love Chief Mills.”
A police officer present on Sunday had communicated to Citizens that officers were present in order to deescalate certain potential personal conflicts. During the demonstration, no confrontation between officers and protesters was made.
In his second public report pertaining to the matter, Police Chief Andrew Mills denounced the participation of anti-mask protesters. On an official blog post, he described the actions of protesters as “ selfish, arrogant, ignorant, and illegal,” and that the police force “will not accept this group violating the law intentionally while putting other community members’ health at risk.” Police are currently coordinating with local businesses to assess methods of de-escalation and assured that if maskless protests continue to disrupt individual businesses, the matter will be handled as a trespassing incident.