At lunchtime on Friday, the parking lot next to Grass Valley City Hall — best known for hosting the city’s annual Cornish pasty tossing contest — was transformed into western Nevada County’s version of Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley.
Only this time the “free speech movement” was a thinly veiled — and typically irreverent — political protest to challenge Democratic governor Gavin Newsom’s criteria to allow businesses to safely reopen in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed over 338,200 people (including more Americans than the Vietnam War).
The group’s keynote speaker was none other than U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, AKA a “rice farmer whose cowboy-hat branding on campaign materials includes the slogan ‘one of us,'” as the Redding newspaper once aptly summed up. He beat challenger Audrey Denney in a heated March 2020 election for the District 1 Congressional seat.
In Nevada County, however, Denney prevailed handily (see results on page 5). She received about 49 percent of the county’s vote compared with 44 percent for LaMalfa.
He’s “One of Us”
On Friday, LaMalfa rode into town to try to fire up his base — in this case about 100 like-minded citizens who were growing impatient with Newsom’s efforts to reopen California. The news (complete with hundreds of comments) unfolded on Facebook — a sign of the times.
The protest was quintessential Nevada County politics: One gentleman was marching around the parking lot waiving a big yellow “Don’t tread on me” flag — like the one seen at State of Jefferson rallies; a woman was holding a handwritten sign reading “USA before China and Mexico”— and another fellow was waiving a California state flag that was turned upside down.
“There appeared to be little concern, and during speeches little caution, for physical distancing,” as The Union reported. “A few people wore masks except for those in the media, as well as LaMalfa, who at times covered his face with one.” (I watched the protest “live” on a video streamed at TheUnion.com).
Deciding that “discretion was the better part of valor,” two County Supes who were planning to attend dropped out. And the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce rescinded its support of the protest. Good idea!
YubaNet did a good job of summing up the afternoon: “Reopen rally is like a double fault at match point — Fumbling at the finish line is heartbreaking and counterproductive.”
And the Presidential election is still 164 days away.