© Reuters/Stephen Lam
A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest calling for the reopening of California, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sacramento, California, U.S. May 7, 2020.
Memorial Day weekend brought the largest protest against the statewide shutdown at the Capitol so far.
The crowd of people gathered on 10th Street for what organizers called "Liberty Fest." The protesters want California to follow the lead of other states that have reopened businesses and ease social distancing restrictions.
Honking pickup trucks circled the Capitol as a plane flew overhead, pulling a sign with the message: 'End His Tyranny!' aimed at Gov. Gavin Newsom.
While Trump flags were on fully display, masks were not. People said they are not afraid of the coronavirus and it is time for the state to reopen. Adam Blancarte drove seven hours overnight from Riverside County to say so.
"I went to my grandmother's house the other day, she couldn't even hug me. She was nothing but fear," Blancarte said. "I went to my church with the pastor that married me, and he's got a mask on and gloves on and he's sitting in fear."
Others came from out of state. Pam Hemphill said she was requested to travel to California for the protest from her home in Boise, Idaho.
"We got a group of us together, it's called the 'People's Movement,' where if you're in trouble and they're stepping on your First Amendment rights or any of your Constitutional rights, we will come to your aid," Hemphill said. "You just call us and you'll get 1,000 people there to help you."
One of the groups that organized the event is Freedom Angels. The group was originally formed to protest vaccinations. Recently, it has pivoted its target to the state shutdown by organizing several protests at the Capitol.
An organization spokeswoman said they paid to charter two buses to bring people up from Southern California. Naomi Soria was one of those passengers.
"Freedom is non-partisan. Whether you're Republican, Democrat, Conservative, we can all agree at the end of the day, race aside, religion aside, freedom is non-partisan," Soria said.
Some people from the Sacramento area said they came on their own because they are out of work.
"I was unable to take a job because it was considered non-essential which I think it's wrong because it's my job, it's essential to me," said Gayle Barrett from Lockeford.
Jim Edmonds came to the rally because he said the statewide order shut down his once thriving bounce house business in Roseville.
"I was just in total depression. I've never been depressed," Edmonds said. "I have people that count on me. And I had to lay them off. That hurts worse than anything."
Pastor Paul Bertram from Faith Mountain Pentecostal Church in San Diego said he showed up to the rally to circulate his petition to open up churches. He said he is the western region chairman for the Worldwide Pentecostal Fellowship. Bertram said his organization helped pay for resources at the rally, like the porta potties.
"Two weeks of flattening the curve has turned into nine weeks of a great overreach of power and a complete disregard for all of California," Bertram said.
Individuals and families crowded onto the Capitol Mall sprawled out on picnic blankets and sat in lawn chairs. Devon Mathis, a Republican Assemblyman representing Kern County said people do not just want talk, they want action.
"At this point, we need to open everything up. And if people want to stay home, they can stay home. If people want to go out, they can go out. And that's what freedom is all about is making sure that as adults we can decide for ourselves," Mathis said.
The protest remained peaceful as officers stood watch. Sacramento Police and the California Highway Patrol said there was not a permit for the event.
"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, permits are denied for the health & safety of all involved," CHP said.
Earlier this week, several counties in California were allowed to expand their Stage 2 reopening, meaning dine-in restaurants and retail stores could reopen with modifications.
Other services that have not been permitted to reopen include gyms and fitness studios, salons, entertainment venues and hotels.