SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Parents, teachers and students are rallying back to the Capitol, hammering in a message that their fight against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students isn't one that'll end any time soon.
“I think the commitment is amongst all these parents that they are not going to give up. They're going to continue to fight, whether it's through a rally, whether it's through writing their representatives, whether it's getting their school boards to pass resolutions that say they will not comply, whatever it is, they will continue to fight,” said Jonathan Zachreson, event organizer for the Our Children, Our Choice Rally.
If the rally's name sounds familiar, that's because co-organizers Amber Faddis and Tess Van Dusen held a similar event last month. Zachreson says nearly 4,000 people attended that rally.
“This is not an anti-vaccine rally. You know, whether you're vaccinated or not… everybody is welcome. This is about a choice in regard to the COVID-19 vaccine at school,” Zachreson said.
Here's what to know about the rally.
What is the Our Children, Our Choice Rally?
The Our Children, Our Choice Rally is calling on people to head to the Capitol on Nov. 15 in response to California's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. It includes a call to keep students home from school to show the districts how many students they could lose due to the mandate, according to Zachreson.
In a news release, Van Dusen called the last rally a peaceful event and noted that there could be more to come.
“We are not anti-vaccine; we are standing against the mandate for our children. Many new parents will be joining the thousands from before at the capitol to peacefully on November 15. We will come out again if nothing changes,” Van Dusen said.
Thousands are expected at Capitol on Monday for the rally. Speakers include teachers, community members, and more. Zachreson said they'll also be announcing another rally to coincide with the legislature being back in session.
Why another rally?
The new rally comes about a month after the last one. Zachreson said the event is returning because not much has changed, at least in terms of Governor Gavin Newsom and the legislature's stances.
"[This] is a kind of a warning cry to the legislators, if they were to try to remove the personal belief exemption, they're going to be having a standoff with a large group of school districts in California,” Zachreson said, noting that other school districts and leaders have opposed the mandate.
In October, Assemblymember Kevin Kiley also said he knows lawmakers are discussing adding the COVID vaccine to the list of state-mandated vaccines in school to remove all religious and personal exceptions. The reason why there are religious and personal exemptions now is because Gov. Newsom made the call to mandate vaccines in schools. If lawmakers made the call, there wouldn't be any.
Zachreson hopes the rally can help lead to a dialogue between the parents and leadership.
“I'd say that parents are upset. Parents are passionate about this issue. There's never been -- I haven't seen anything, at least -- where they've come together so large, so quickly, from all different parts of the state for all different backgrounds over a single issue. And so really, it's to kind of take a step back, listen to what the other side has to say and really, let's start having a dialogue,” he said.
About the mandate
Back in October, Governor Gavin Newsom's office said the regulations will take effect for eligible students at the start of the following term, either Jan. 1 or July 1. A spokesperson for the governor's office said at the time that the requirement could apply to grades seven through 12 starting July 1, 2022.
When and where is the rally?
The rally will take place on Nov. 15 at 10 a.m. on the northside of the Capitol building on L Street. It'll continue until noon.
An event permit from the California High Patrol lists 5,000 participants for the rally. For live traffic updates, view the Waze map below.