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Man stabbed near L.A. City Hall as vaccine mandate protest turns violent

Protesters beat up a counterprotester during an anti-vaccination rally near City Hall on Aug. 14, in the wake of a Los Angeles City Council vote to require proof of vaccination for anyone entering an indoor public space. (David Mcnew/AFP/Getty Images)
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A man was stabbed Saturday outside Los Angeles City Hall when a protest over vaccination mandates devolved into fighting and a journalist was attacked, according to police and reporters.

The Los Angeles Police Department said it was “monitoring” the protest on City Hall’s south lawn after violence erupted. Authorities said no arrests had been made, and an investigation was ongoing as the person stabbed was taken to the hospital.

Video captured an extended brawl, with people kicking, shoving and punching one another. What precipitated the violence is unclear, but it unfolded as renewed pandemic restrictions and government pushes for immunization against the coronavirus spark fierce divides. The Los Angeles Times reported that the fighting broke out between those protesting vaccine mandates and black-clad counterprotesters as several hundred gathered at an afternoon rally for “medical freedom.”

“Unmask them! Unmask them all!” some yelled during the chaos, directing profanity at “antifa,” a reference to a loosely knit group of far-left activists.

A man in a “Protect the 2nd Amendment” skull-and-cross-bones shirt walked by with what appeared to be blood all over one side of his head as others chanted “USA! USA!” and police tried to restore order. At one point, video shows people kicking someone down on the ground. Some counterprotesters sprayed mace, the Times said.

A reporter for NPR station KPCC, Frank Stoltze, said he was shoved, kicked and had his glasses “ripped off of my face” by people at the protest, which he also described as supportive of former president Donald Trump and an effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

“Something happened to me today that’s never happened in 30 [years] of reporting,” he tweeted.

“I’m mad but fine,” he added later.

Authorities have not said who was involved in the stabbing, and the Los Angeles police did not immediately respond to questions Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Fire Department, Margaret Stewart, said the department received a call about a stabbing at 2:34 p.m. on the block where City Hall stands and transported one patient for treatment. Stewart said Sunday morning that she could not provide any information about the patient’s condition, which police have not specified.

A Los Angeles Times photographer captured authorities trying to stop a man’s bleeding as he lay on the ground, his hand on his head.

Signs photographed at Saturday’s protest claimed that the coronavirus vaccine uses “risky new mRNA technology,” even as public health leaders emphasize that the vaccine has been proven safe and has only rare side effects. Messenger RNA technology had been studied and developed for years before its use in coronavirus vaccines. Other signs called to “STOP THE MANDATE” and said that “COERCION IS NOT [CONSENT].”

Los Angeles officials have imposed some of the country’s most stringent masking and vaccination rules as governments respond to surging coronavirus infections and hospitalizations fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. L.A. County’s decision last month to reimpose an indoor mask mandate for its 10 million residents regardless of vaccination status was one of the earliest significant rollbacks of the nation’s reopening. And the Los Angeles City Council voted last week to require proof of coronavirus vaccination for anyone entering an indoor public space.

“Your decision to remain unvaccinated doesn’t just affect you,” L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez tweeted after the measure passed.

Martinez voiced dismay this weekend at the violence outside City Hall.

“Not wearing a mask and being anti-vax isn’t patriotism — it’s stupidity,” she said, according to local media. “We have to be able to have differences of opinions without resorting to violence.”

Other major cities, including New York, New Orleans and San Francisco, also have said they will require vaccination for entry into indoor settings such as bars, restaurants and gyms. Employers as well as government agencies have increasingly turned to vaccine mandates as more than 40 percent of Americans have yet to get a first shot, months into intensive vaccination campaigns, including some that tried to lure people with free food and multimillion-dollar lotteries.

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