SANTA MONICA, Calif. (CNS) — Santa Monica police will be out in force Sunday in anticipation of a rally planned at the city's famous pier by people objecting to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
"In abundance of caution, the police department will have enhanced staffing through the city and particularly the downtown area," according to a Santa Monica Police Department Facebook post.
"This event is a public assembly for those who wish to exercise their right express their opinions regarding medical freedom associated with the COVID-19 vaccinations and vaccination passports," according to the department's Facebook post. "There is also credible intelligence indicating counter protesters will be in attendance."
Billed as a "worldwide rally for freedom" and a "rally against medical tyranny," the noon to 4 p.m. Sunday rally is taking place a week after hundreds of people gathered at Santa Monica's Tongva Park for a similar protest. There were no reports of violence during that gathering — a sharp contract to a protest in downtown Los Angeles a week earlier that was marred by fistfights and a stabbing.
In a video message posted on Facebook last week, Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said the department anticipates that "opposition groups will very likely be in attendance" at Sunday's event at the foot of the Santa Monica Pier.
"As a Santa Monica community member, business owner or visitor, you should know that the city of Santa Monica, and by extension, its police department, values the ability of the public to engage in peacefully expressive conduct as guaranteed by the United States Constitution," Seabrooks said. "On the other hand, we do take issue with those who come to our community specifically to intimidate — through violence or other criminal behavior — those who seek to peacefully exercise their Constitutional rights.
"Given the nature of this upcoming event, and in an abundance of caution, this weekend, you will see an increased uniformed police presence throughout the city and in particular, the downtown area," she said. "We are working with our municipal partners and other regional partners to ensure the police department is able to facilitate peaceful First Amendment activity even as we work to ensure a safe environment for our residents, business owners, and visitors."
In an effort to prevent violent outbreaks, the Santa Monica City Council adopted an emergency ordinance this week barring people from bringing certain types of items to public protests, assemblies or community events. The list of banned items includes plastic pipes, baseball bats, aerosol sprays, weapons, glass bottles, chains longer than 20 inches, metal containers, shields, gas masks, helmets, body armor, bricks and rocks.
"If you have not already, we urge you to register for the city's SMAlert system," the city's police department posted on social media. "It is the fastest way for you to receive critical and timely information in the event of emergencies, for traffic detours and other urgent updates that may impact your operations."