An anti-vaccine rally in downtown Los Angeles erupted into a streetfight Saturday afternoon, leaving one protester bloodied on the ground with a stab wound and a journalist filing a police report over an alleged assault.
Organizers held the demonstration to decry coronavirus mask mandates like the one implemented in Los Angeles County last month, and vaccine requirements like the stipulations for entering many establishments in San Francisco instituted this week. The Los Angeles City council followed San Francisco’s lead earlier this week, voting to direct city attorneys to draft a law paving the way for entry into bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms to be conditional upon vaccination status.
Pro-vaccine protesters staged a counterdemonstration in front of City Hall, many wearing masks and all black garb. Shortly after 2:30 p.m., tensions boiled over and members of the group of anti-vaxxers came to blows with counter-protesters, with one person apparently stabbed amid the chaos. Police were seen administering first aid, and paramedics transported the man to the hospital. It was not immediately clear what sparked the fight, but the anti-mask crowd claimed the wounded demonstrator was one of their own. The fistfights between the anti- and pro-vaccine crowds reportedly involved mace and death threats.
In a separate incident, Frank Stolze, a reporter for local station KPCC, filed a police report alleging that an anti-vaccine protester had assaulted him while he was conducting an interview. Anti-mask protesters reportedly harried him out of City Hall, screaming at him and kicking him.
In all, hundreds of people congregated for the rally, according to the L.A. Times. The Times estimated that several hundred anti-vaccine advocates were on the scene opposite several dozen pro-vaccine protesters.
Los Angeles Police Department Captain Stacy Spell said in a statement to the Times, “We are on scene to maintain order after a fight broke out between Antifa and people gathered for the permitted event. We are aware of one male that was stabbed and is being treated by Fire Department personnel. No arrests have been made but [the] investigation is ongoing.”
Earlier this year, anti-vaccine protesters briefly shut down the Dodgers Stadium vaccination site, storming its gates while carrying protest signs.
Public health experts across the country and at all levels of government have repeatedly said that vaccination is the best way to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The majority of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated, but inoculation rates have slowed in the summer months, and pockets remain of unvaccinated people who have either refused or waited to get the shot.
Cases across the country are now surging, concentrated in enclaves without immunity like Florida and Mississippi. The resulting explosion of cases has created what CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has called “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”