The Los Angeles Times reported a truly bizarre incident at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, in which a group of anti-vaxx protesters supposedly got the vehicle entrance to the COVID vaccination site there shut down for about an hour.
Cars were lined up bringing folks anxious to get their vaccines, and people posting to social media described having to wait for the situation to be rectified. Such an act of malicious interference would be justifiably considered intolerable, and we’d expect the police to respond quickly and forcefully to open the entrance and keep it free of protesters.
But according to witnesses, that’s not what happened. The Times seemed to go with accounts of uniformed personnel closing the vehicle gate where the protesters had gathered, apparently concluding that the L.A. Fire Department had closed it. The LAPD, in a tweet, denied having closed the gate:
We are aware of social media posts referring to protestors showing up at the Dodger Stadium COVID-19 vaccination site. Preliminary reports are that protestors remained peaceful. The LAPD did NOT close the gates, and per LA City Fire, all scheduled vaccines will be delivered. https://t.co/l5zEW3UAOt
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) January 31, 2021
But witnesses insisted personnel in uniform had been the ones to close it when the protesters showed up. They also said the police stood around and basically did nothing about the protesters for quite some time.
We’re at the mass vaccination site at Dodger Stadium to get my mom the vaccine. The anti–vax protestors have approached the entrance to the site. The LAPD have now closed the gate. We have been sitting here for about half an hour. Nobody is moving. pic.twitter.com/GrJPA5wrqx
— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) January 30, 2021
This was in spite of the fact that – again, according to eyewitnesses – there were only about 30 protesters, who offered no violence and were basically just shouting slogans and holding up signs. (I think, based on independent video of the event – below – that there were more than 30 protesters. But there weren’t more than 30-40 anywhere near the gate. More on that in a moment.)
There’s plenty of video in the tweet threads to validate what the witnesses describe.
Additional LAPD officers arrived after a while, but they did not engage much with the protesters. pic.twitter.com/w23wIhHhYI
— Samuel Braslow (@SamBraslow) January 31, 2021
This sounds really “off” to me. Unless the police were under orders to allow the protest to hold the gates closed, there just doesn’t seem to be any reason why the officers visibly on the scene couldn’t have reopened the gates, without incident, in under 10 minutes.
One man posting to Twitter had photos of police officers gathered at a distance from the protesters with their backs turned to them, clearly not feeling themselves to be in any danger (certainly not thinking there was any danger to the people waiting in the line of vehicles). It makes no sense. Police can also be seen wandering around watching the protesters and doing nothing about them. Officers are visible standing just inside and outside the closed gate, doing nothing.
Eventually, additional squad cars arrived. One of the users on Twitter posted that there was a sheriff’s helicopter overhead by then. Yet the small group of utterly non-threatening protesters hadn’t grown, and merely looked kind of silly waving its raft of meticulously lettered signs.
There appears to be only about 30 protestors total. It’s not clear why they’ve shut off the whole facility.
Sheriff’s helicopter now circling the scene.
— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) January 30, 2021
Ultimately the protesters left the gate without incident, and the gate was reopened. But notice I didn’t say the police moved the protesters out.
Here’s what a local reporter on scene had to say (click through for his full thread): “LAPD eventually opened the gates back up and the protesters left. Unclear if LAPD requested they do so. The organizer [i.e., of the protest] thanks LAPD, who wave back to him.”
LAPD eventually opened the gates back up and the protesters left. Unclear if LAPD requested they do so. The organizer thanks LAPD, who wave back to him. pic.twitter.com/a06S5b7LBx
— Samuel Braslow (@SamBraslow) January 31, 2021
What was going on here? Hundreds of people who came to get their shots had to wait an extra hour on Saturday, while the LAPD, which had plenty of officers for the task there from the beginning, did nothing about 30 unarmed, non-threatening protesters.
The LAT said that the protest had been announced on social media beforehand: “A post on social media described the demonstration as the ‘Scamdemic Protest/March.’ It advised participants to ‘please refrain from wearing Trump/MAGA attire as we want our statement to resonate with the sheeple. No flags but informational signs only.”
But although I found a “social media post” on Twitter with the wording quoted by the LAT, there was no evidence I could find that it had been posted by a pro-Trump or MAGA group at any point. The only instance I found was a self-described socialist Twitter user whose comment was that “MAGATs” (i.e., “maggots”) were going to protest at the vaccine site on Saturday.
Your friendly local MAGATs are going to protest vaccine distribution tomorrow at Dodger Stadium. pic.twitter.com/aETm0nc3dt
— Exiled ? (@ExileOC) January 30, 2021
A video may shed some light on that. The LAT article linked to a livestreamed video of the protest (below), obtained by someone who posts under the name WYSIWYG Tv at YouTube. This person (who seems to have a small group of other videographers) has been putting up videos since September 2020, and seems to cover different kinds of events. It’s not one-sided coverage from either political perspective.
At the beginning of the video we hear him say that he hadn’t planned to livestream the event (in fact, he was deviating from his original plan to go get a doughnut with someone), but for some reason he did decide to follow the cars and people up to Dodger Stadium and livestream whatever was going on.
He seems to have seen a flier about the protest, although he doesn’t mention where he came across it. Again, I couldn’t find it anywhere except as an image tweeted by the socialist Twitter user. The WYSIWYG Tv videographer speaks of seeing some “usual suspects” in a clump of protesters heading uphill toward the gate the cars are lined up for, and recognizes a couple of people by name, so apparently he’s seen some of them before.
It’s right at the 42:30 mark in the video that he gets to the gate, and discovers that it’s closed. The protesters aren’t in front of it at all. They’re not impeding the cars, and they aren’t placed in such a way that they’d even need to be moved out of the way of the gate. They’re already out of the way, at the side of the road, with the closest ones at least 10 yards from the gate. (Video taken earlier by Twitter users showed a few protesters walking closer to the gate when they first arrived, but later video from the same users indicated there were no protesters in front of the gates, in a position to block the traffic, after the first few minutes.)
So the videographer tries to find out what’s going on.
The following exchanges occur starting at 42:30.
“It appears as though the gate’s closed,” the narrator says. He then raises his voice and asks the protesters, “Anybody know why the gate’s closed?”
A stocky man in a white T-shirt turns and responds. Not all of his response is audible, but we hear him say, “They’re gonna frame it as [garbled] … because of …”
“The protest?” asks the narrator.
“Yeah, but no one’s trying to break down the gate,” the white T-shirt protester says. “Hey, they can open it. We’re not gonna go in there.”
They continue an exchange with fragments of verbiage: “They’re gonna frame it as, these people are stopping …” “Well …” “I guess …”
Another man in a dark shirt steps forward.
The narrator addresses him: “They shut the gate when you guys got in here?”
“Yeah,” the dark-shirted man responds. “All they had to do was tell us not to go in, we wouldn’t have came in.”
“Right –” the narrator interjects.
“Yeah, so, they shut it,” the dark-shirted man continues. “They’re making it look like we’re not letting them go in to get vaccinated.” He says a few more inaudible words, and finishes with, “This is making national news.”
The narrator wants to clarify: “So, you guys walked up and they closed the gate.”
The white T-shirted man replies, “Yeah … it was like they knew what to do, too.”
A second later, he adds, “We’re not stopping anyone from going in.”
And quite visibly, they’re not stopping anyone. None of them is anywhere near the gate.
The two protesters – in the dark shirt and the white T-shirt – walk over to ask the officers standing at the gate what’s going on. The narrator walks over behind them, and after hearing an answer from an officer (whose words aren’t intelligible), explains for the video viewers: “So, the officer just said they closed the gate because of the protesters here.”
That line is uttered at 44:20. I recommend watching the whole exchange between about 42:00 and 45:00, to understand that the protesters aren’t blocking anything, they’re not near the gate, there’s no reason not to open the gate, but the officers are standing there not opening it, and not telling the protesters to leave. (About 40 minutes later, at the 1:22:00 mark in the video, the gate is finally opened and the cars are allowed to start driving in. At no point do the officers give orders or instructions to the protesters.)
This isn’t right. Obviously it’s annoying to the people going to get vaccinated that the protesters are there. The annoyance is understandable, but it’s manufacturing a lie to frame the situation as one in which the protesters were preventing people from getting their shots. Hundreds of social media users who saw the posts from on scene now think that’s what happened – and so do the LA Times readers and the audiences of all the news outlets that are now relying on the LAT report. Their fury at what they think are “Trump supporters” blocking people from getting coronavirus vaccines is compounded.
The LAT report cites the WYSIWYG Tv video, but doesn’t acknowledge what it clearly shows: that the protesters posed no problem that warranted closing the gate.
In an early response to the LAT tweet of its article on the protest, a Twitter user astutely observed, “There is weirdly little detail in this story. I find it hard to believe the LA-effing-PD wouldn’t be able to easily dispatch of some anti-vaxx MAGA protesters blocking a Dodger Stadium entrance. Something’s up.”
There is weirdly little detail in this story.
I find it hard it to believe the LA-effing-PD wouldn't be able to easily dispatch of some anti-vaxx MAGA protesters blocking a Dodger Stadium entrance. Something's up.
— Anthony L. Fisher (@anthonyLfisher) January 31, 2021
Something does seem to be up. Here’s a curious coda. Also on Saturday, I came across this video clip from the 6 January riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Very telling…. pic.twitter.com/WJYABJ294u
— CyrusTheGreat (@TheGreateCyrus) January 30, 2021
In it, a Trump supporter is watching rioters damaging the Capitol as they break into it, and he strides over angrily to a group of armed Capitol Police, in body armor, who are standing to the side doing nothing. He shouts at them to do something, to call for back-up. “That’s our Capitol, man!” he hollers in frustration.
The officers give no response and do nothing.
That’s the third video I’ve seen in which Capitol Police outside were either passive, doing nothing about the break-in, or were actively assisting it by moving barriers aside so rioters could stream toward the Capitol building unimpeded.
Yes, something’s up. We should be very concerned about what.