Ventura County citizens protest, demanding county to re-open for business


Protesters begin the demonstration in the Ventura County Government Center parking lot in their cars, holding signs and flags, on Friday, April 24, in Ventura, Calif. The protesters were honking their horns, campaigning to open the government in Ventura County. Photo credit: Tara Brown

By Emily Ledesma

Hundreds of Ventura County residents gathered Friday, April 24 to rally for the re-opening of Ventura County. The “Drive for Freedom” protest was organized by Citizens Journal Editor Debra Tash and several other county residents. Citizens Journal is a volunteer-operated news organization based out of Ventura County.

Starting at the Ventura County Government Center, participants gathered in their cars, outfitted with flags and signage, and began the hour long protest demanding the re-opening of businesses, education, social activities and religious life in Ventura County.

“We rally together to open Ventura County and get back to work safely, sanely and responsibly,” stated the flyer for the gathering along with additional information regarding guidelines for the the rally. Attendees were informed that it was not meant to be a political rally and that attendees should follow orders from the county health officer to remain in vehicles and follow social distancing guidelines.

Former Thousand Oaks city councilman, Rob McCoy, was also in attendance at the driving rally and urged the County to listen to citizens desires and re-open.

“We’re destroying families, livelihoods and businesses,” stated McCoy who is also a pastor at Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park. “We can’t feed the peoples’ fears. We have to give them very clear empirical data … because they’ve been given data that is theoretical.”

McCoy resigned from his council position hours before his April 5, Palm Sunday, sermon when he intended to defy social distancing and stay at home orders by hosting communion at his church.

Rob McCoy, pastor and former city council member, speaks during the Drive for Freedom protest on Friday, April 24, in Ventura, Calif. McCoy believes Ventura County needs to fully open all establishments.
Rob McCoy, pastor and former city council member, speaks during the Drive for Freedom protest on Friday, April 24, in Ventura, Calif. McCoy believes Ventura County needs to fully open all establishments. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Dozens of cars filled with up to five members of the same household, drove around the Ventura County Government center and surrounding streets honking horns and waving flags in support of re-opening the county. Not every citizen was in agreement with the rally.

59-year-old yoga teacher and Ventura County resident Zane Farris shared her thoughts on lifting the lockdown.


“I feel that it is too soon to lift up the lockdown,” stated Farris. “I think that there has to be some reason why all of this was implemented.”

Farris explained her point of view on opening up the county too soon.

“Things that are semi-permanent (such as plexiglass in grocery stores) imply the longevity of the situation. For it to suddenly be lifted would seem odd,” Farris said. “It would undermine the message that we’ve been told previously.”

On the day of the Drive for Freedom rally, Ventura County had experienced a total of 476 cases and 16 deaths according to VC Emergency. As of April 28, Ventura County has 503 cases and 17 deaths.

Protesters display signs on vehicles as they urge the Ventura County to re-open.
“Small Biz is the USA” states one vehicle in line for the Drive for Freedom Rally in Ventura, Calif. on Friday, April 24, where citizens are urging Ventura County to re-open.

Governor Gavin Newsom issued his executive state-wide Stay at Home order on March 19. The order prohibited outside gatherings and the closure of nonessential businesses.

Ventura County businessman Jim Kniss, who has been at home for the last month, unable to work and run his drone business properly, hopes officials will re-open the community soon.

“I think we did the best we could with a new disease coming into the country … (but) they need to open this thing up or we’re going to damage our business culture,” Kniss explained. “Nobody’s working … everybody else is laid off … Let’s get this thing moving again. This is more about our health and the health of our economy.”

Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County’s health official, issued a Stay at Home order following Governor Newsom’s, and urged citizens to follow guidelines in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. Currently the order is effective until May 15.

California has made some progress in the fight against COVID-19 and this was reflected last week with Ventura County reopening of beaches, parks and golf courses.

Although these public spaces are open, citizens must continue to follow strict social distancing guidelines in addition to wearing masks.

For more updates on COVID-19 in Ventura County, visit VC Emergency.