‘Anti-vax’ protesters could get free-speech area to prevent them from blocking COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Thomas Miller jogs by protesters rallying against the COVID-19 vaccine and public health lockdowns near Dodger Stadium.
Thomas Miller jogs by demonstrators at a rally, organized by Shop Mask Free Los Angeles, to protest the COVID-19 vaccine, masks and lockdowns on Sunset Boulevard near Dodger Stadium on Saturday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles officials on Monday expressed anger at anti-vaccine protesters who temporarily blocked the vaccine distribution center at Dodger Stadium on Saturday and said they hoped to avoid future disruptions.

“I was very upset and disheartened,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said of the disruption to the vaccination efforts.

Solis said authorities will set up space for protesters in the future who can share their viewpoints but “won’t disrupt” the traffic flow.


”I understand people have 1st Amendment rights. … But when you become disruptive and actually create more problems through congestion, traffic jams or hostility in a manner that is not conducive, then I would want to have our public safety officials involved and to be there to protect all that are involved,” Solis said.

Los Angeles Fire Department officials closed the main entrance to the stadium — one of the largest vaccination sites in the country — for about an hour Saturday after 40 to 60 demonstrators appeared on Stadium Way holding signs that decried masks while shouting unfounded claims about the dangers of the vaccine.

The group dispersed around 3 p.m., and there were no arrests or injuries reported, said LAFD Assistant Chief Ellsworth Fortman, who oversees the department’s COVID-19 response. Fortman said roughly 5,740 doses of the vaccine were issued Saturday at the site, which distributes 5,700 to 7,700 doses daily. Workers were still vaccinating people inside the stadium during the hour that the main entrance was closed, he said.

Although it is not clear who organized the protest, fliers promoting the event were shared online by the group Shop Mask Free Los Angeles, whose members have repeatedly shown up at supermarkets and stores in recent months and attempted to purchase items without masks.

The events usually end in arguments between the group’s members and store employees, and sometimes draw law enforcement responses, according to videos the group has published online.

To date, more than 886,000 doses of the two types of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the county, according to The Times vaccination tracker.


“L.A. County has administered more doses of vaccine today than any other large county or large city in the United States, and we have the highest percent administration rate,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director.

But the shipments have been inconsistent. For the week of Jan. 11, L.A. County received 193,950 vaccine doses; the following week, it received only 168,575 doses and only 146,225 doses the week after that.

“The pace of vaccinations remains very slow because of the limited supply,” Ferrer said, adding that second doses are currently being prioritized among the region’s residents.

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.