Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — As the COVID-19 surge continues, tensions between those who favor mandated vaccinations and those who oppose them ignited into a confrontation downtown Aug. 14.
A man was stabbed during dueling demonstrations between the two factions but he was released from the hospital the next day, police said Aug. 15.
Spokesman Mike Lopez of the Los Angeles Police Department had no further information about the victim, and said that no arrests were made during violence outside City Hall, where many punches and objects were thrown between a group defending vaccine and mask mandates and opponents who think they infringe on personal freedom.
Observers and at least one city official publicly decried the violence, and at least two reporters said they were assaulted by the anti-vaccine protesters. The anti-vaccine group said the stabbing victim was on their side, but that could not be confirmed.
Supporters of mandatory vaccinations, which are increasingly being required, gathered for a “No Safe Space For Fascists” rally at 1 p.m., followed an hour later by a “Choose Freedom March” against “medical tyranny.” Video from the scene showed the anti-vaccination crowd yelling at the other side from across First Street — some of whom were filming the demonstration — then attacking them, hollering among other things, “Unmask them!”
Late in the afternoon, the LAPD declared an unlawful assembly.
“We are aware of one male that was stabbed and is being treated by LAFD,” the LAPD tweeted at 3:15 p.m.
Firefighters also responded to the gatherings.
“We made one transport to a hospital, but I don’t have any patient condition information,” Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart said.
The wounded man collapsed at the intersection of First and Spring streets after being stabbed and at least one LAPD officer was seen trying to stop his bleeding before firefighters arrived. The injured man was a reportedly a member of the anti-vaccine group, the Los Angeles Times reported, adding that he was taken to a hospital in serious condition.
Veteran reporter Frank Stoltze of KPCC and LAist said he was attacked in the park outside City Hall. It was unclear who attacked Stoltze, but LAPD Capt. Stacy Spell told Los Angeles Times reporters at the scene that a police report had been taken.
Stoltze later posted a message on Twitter saying, “Something happened to me today that’s never happened in 30 years of reporting. I was shoved, kicked and my eyeglasses were ripped off my face by a group of guys at a protest outside City Hall during an anti-vax, recall Gavin Newsom and pro-Trump rally.”
Reporter and podcaster Tina Desiree Berg posted photos and video of herself being attacked by a man who can be seen lunging forward and pulling down her mask.
Berg posted “I was just attacked with others” at the top of a lengthy Twitter thread showing photos and video of herself and others being approached by angry protesters.
Many identified the man seen reaching for Berg’s mask as Tony Moon who tweets under the name “The Roof Korean” and videotaped himself at the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Others on Twitter claimed the LAPD did not manage the situation as aggressively as they do other types of protests.
“The LAPD are not serving or protecting the community today,” actress Rosanna Arquette tweeted. “They apparently are there to serve and protect violent Proud Boys and attack journalists. Dangerous supremacists have infiltrated the force. This is a big problem.”
ABC7 reported that members of the Proud Boys participated in the anti-vaccine demonstration. The group is a far-right, exclusively male organization that has been linked by the U.S. Justice Department to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“LAPD allowed multiple attacks to happen while they and everyone else on Twitter has real-time access to video documentation of the attacks and who did them,” LCRWnews tweeted.
While some blamed Proud Boys “agitators,” others cited “Antifa rioters.”
“We are on scene to maintain order after a fight broke out between Antifa and people gathered for the permitted event,” the LAPD posted on Instagram. “No arrests have been made but investigation is ongoing.”
City Council President Nury Martinez blamed the anti-vaccine mandate demonstrators.
“These aren’t patriots,” Martinez said in a statement Aug. 14. “Not wearing a mask and being anti-vax isn’t patriotism — it’s stupidity. We have to be able to have differences of opinions without resorting to violence. Attacking counter-protesters and journalists has no place in a democracy and certainly no place in Los Angeles.”
The rallies came as vaccine mandates continue to proliferate across California.
The Los Angeles City Council voted last week to have the city attorney draw up an ordinance requiring proof of at least partial vaccination to enter many public indoor spaces in the city, including restaurants, bars, gyms, concert venues, movie theaters and retail establishments.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is gathering advice from experts over the next two weeks for a possible similar mandate.
Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly announced Aug. 13 that all Los Angeles Unified School District employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15. The district previously mandated only weekly testing for all students and staffers, regardless of vaccination status.
That testing requirement will remain in place.
Gov. Gavin Newsom Aug. 11 announced a statewide requirement for all teachers and school employees in the state to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing.
Los Angeles County is requiring its employees to get vaccinated, and many large private employers are doing the same.
And AEG, owner of many of the Southland’s major concert venues, said Aug. 12 that fans will have to be vaccinated to attend shows at its facilities, including the Roxy, the El Rey Theatre, the Fonda Theatre, the Shrine Auditorium and the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio.