Unmasked Protesters Storm Huntington Beach After California Governor’s Closure

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty
Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty

Give them Vitamin D or give them death.

Hundreds of demonstrators swarmed Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles, on Friday to protest California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s closure of the Golden State’s sandy shores—an anti-lockdown display organized in part by the owner of a “health and wellness center.”

Reporters on the scene captured footage of banners for President Donald Trump’s campaign, “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, and homemade signs with slogans such as “Freedom is Essential.” Overhead shots showed mounted cops corralling the demonstrators onto sidewalks and out of the road. It was clear that many protesters were not wearing masks that health officials say can help curb the spread of COVID-19.

One of the organizers behind Friday’s event is Vivienne Reign of an organization called “We Have Rights.” She is also owner of the East Bay Health and Wellness Center and multiple companies marketing medical devices, corporate records show. Reign, however, refused to confirm her ties to the clinic, which specializes in chiropractic treatment and “regenerative medicine.” 

In an interview hours before the protest began, Reign said she was not connected to Freedomworks, the right-of-center advocacy network which has backed other protests demanding shuttered states reopen, or to any groups bankrolled by libertarian billionaire Charles Koch, who has ties to Freedomworks.

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She claimed that We Have Rights had simply capitalized on the grassroots outrage Newsom provoked with his order, which he issued after crowds packed the coastline last weekend in defiance of the need for social distancing amid a global pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 Californians and another 60,000 Americans.

“‘When that came out, people were pissed,” she said, arguing the war with COVID-19 is effectively over, even though health experts say reopening could trigger a second wave. “The curve has essentially been beaten, so we decided we’ve gotta go do something about this.”

WeHaveRights.com, which calls itself without any backup “the biggest movement in California,” was first registered just two weeks ago.

Reign claimed her organization, which she characterized as an umbrella group encompassing multiple pro-reopening factions in California, has a wealthy benefactor—though she would not say who. 

“There’s a lot of powerful people behind this, and we can get things done,” she insisted.

The East Bay Health and Wellness Center attracted criticism last year for marketing unproven stem cell injections as a treatment for joint pain.

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