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Dodger Stadium's mass COVID-19 vaccination site was temporarily shut down Saturday afternoon when about 50 protesters gathered at the entrance, frustrating hundreds of motorists who had been waiting in line for hours.
The Los Angeles Fire Department closed the entrance to the stadium — one of the largest vaccination sites in the country — for about an hour starting just before 2 p.m. as a precaution, officials said. Several LAPD officers also responded to the scene; a spokeswoman for the department said no arrests were made.
Andrea Garcia, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, said that despite the 55-minute interruption, no appointments were canceled.
"We remain committed to vaccinating Angelenos as quickly and safely as possible," she said.
The demonstrators included members of anti-vaccine and far-right groups. While some carried signs decrying the COVID-19 vaccine and shouting for people not to get the shots, there were no incidents of violence.
"This is completely wrong," said German Jaquez, who drove from his home in La Verne and had been waiting an hour for his vaccination when the stadium's gates were closed. He said some of the protesters were telling people in line that the coronavirus was not real and that the vaccination was dangerous.
"This is the wrong message," Jaquez said. "I've been waiting for weeks to get an appointment. I am a dentist; I am taking a big risk being around patients. I want to be safe for my patients and for my family. The vaccine is the only way to beat the virus."
Confirmed coronavirus cases in California have surpassed 3.2 million. More than 40,000 people — one out of every 1,000 Californians — have died from complications of COVID-19. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s official death toll stands at 16,647 after 316 fatalities were confirmed Saturday, along with more than 6,900 new cases.
A Fire Department official said the Dodger Stadium vaccination site — which is usually open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — reopened a few minutes before 3 p.m.
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.
"This is a sharing information protest and march against everything COVID, Vaccine, PCR Tests, Lockdowns, Masks, Fauci, Gates, Newsom, China, digital tracking, etc."
A livestreamed video of the gathering shows a group of protesters on a sidewalk as cars navigate cone-lined lanes toward the stadium, which served as a COVID-19 testing site for months. A Times photographer witnessed much of the incident.
Protesters carried signs that read "Save Your Soul TURN BACK NOW," "CNN IS LYING TO YOU," "RECALL GAVIN NEWSOM" and "TAKE OFF YOUR MASK." Some handed out pamphlets to motorists who had their windows down. Some cars blared their horns as they drove by.
Protesters spoke through bullhorns: "Turn back while you can," one man said. "You're a lab rat."
Public officials swiftly weighed in, expressing frustration.
"We will not be deterred or threatened," Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted. "Dodger Stadium is back up and running."
Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell, who oversees public safety for Garcetti, tweeted a Times article about the closure, writing, "Its back open, but .." and adding a "face palm" emoji.
"Unbelievable," Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez tweeted. "If you don't want the vaccine fine, but there are millions of Angelenos that do. 16,000 of your neighbors have died, so get out of the way."
About an hour after the vaccination site reopened Saturday, health officials released a statement warning that variants of the coronavirus continue to spread in L.A. County, noting that a second case of the highly transmissible U.K. variant B.1.1.7 has been confirmed locally.
“Virus transmission can happen more easily,” health officials said, urging members of the public to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth, maintain physical distance and avoid gathering with people they don’t live with.
“These strategies,” officials said, “will only be effective in slowing the spread of any variant strain of COVID-19 if they are used by everyone all of the time.”
The Dodger Stadium incident marked the latest protest by small groups opposed to basic coronavirus safety measures such as face coverings.
Following demonstrations by anti-mask groups at shopping malls, grocery stores and homeless encampments, the Los Angeles City Council earlier this month bolstered restrictions and subjected some violators to financial penalties. Following a unanimous vote, the council ordered city attorneys to draft a law that would impose fines and penalties on those who refused to wear a mask at indoor businesses when requested to do so by management, as well as on individuals who refuse to wear one when “invading someone’s personal space.”
Earlier in the pandemic, maskless demonstrators gathered at retail outlets, including Erewhon Market in the Fairfax district, a Target on Beverly Boulevard and the Westfield Century City mall, sparking a backlash from shoppers and employees who felt harassed.
In one video, a demonstrator said he had tested negative for the virus and called a customer at the grocery store a “mask Nazi.”
After the Century City demonstration, Garcetti issued a warning.
“We won’t have officers who are standing by witnessing that. We will take action,” the mayor said. “And don’t test us on this, because you will find yourself in jail, cited or dealing with prosecution.”
Times staff writer Dakota Smith contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.