Protesters opposed to San Jose employee vaccine mandate say they want 'liberty'

Dozens of people opposed to mandated vaccines descended upon San Jose City Hall Friday. Their rally protested a new city ordinance that takes effect Oct. 1.

A man with a megaphone screamed, "What do we want!? Freedom! When do we want it?! Now!"

The work week came to a close with an airing of grievances by about 100 people.

"We don’t have a voice anymore. They make laws in here that don’t even consider us," said Sandy, an attendee who declined to give her last name.

Her "us" represents the people opposed to a change in city policy. All San Jose employees must receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition or employment, effective next month. Or, they face disciplinary action up to and including termination.

"We’re going to walk this very slowly. I think we understand there are folks that have strong concerns. We need to address those concerns," Mayor Sam Liccardo, D-San Jose, said Thursday.

He said vaccinating everyone is the only way to move beyond the COVID pandemic.

"The mayor’s wrong. I’ve read all the science. If this was about science, nobody would be forcing shots on anybody else," said Alix Mayer, president of the California chapter of the Children’s Health Defense.

Upwards of 140 San Jose police officers, half the dispatchers, and 80 firefighters agree. Most say they’ll walk, or take a termination notice, before being forced to become inoculated.

"If firefighters and police officers don’t want to get vaccinated, that is our choice with our rights to freedom and privacy," said Barry Arata, a San Jose firefighter. Added Gregg Z., the husband of a SJPD dispatcher, "We’re gonna be out on the street because the city wants us to take a vaccine that there isn’t enough information about."

The fight over who’s right, seems to be escalating, and shredding the cultural fabric. A motorist driving on East Santa Clara Street and passing the City Hall protest extended his middle finger at the demonstrators.

"A lot of what we’re seeing manufactured, mainly politically, but also in some of our social institutions as well are stoking some of our natural fears," said Dr. Shaun Fletcher, a San Jose State University associate professor of public relations & sport communication.

Police officers warn less cops could equal more crime. City officials counter failure to comply risks escalating COVID cases. And dozens of families fear a choice between finances, and their faith.

"My heart and soul and passion will be stripped from me if I lose this job. I don’t want to lose my job, over a mandate," said Arata.

The mayor said negotiations will continue through the weekend and into next week to find a solution. He promised termination notices will not automatically be sent out Oct. 1.