Flag- and sign-waving protesters yelling “freedom” called for the city of Fresno to immediately reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday.

The City Hall crowd, which police estimated at 250, heard dozens of speakers — business owners and elected leaders — talk about the Constitution and the reeling economy that has sent unemployment soaring.

Speakers addressed the crowd from the back of a box truck parked on the street facing the entrance to City Hall. At one point, conservative activist and event organizer Ben Bergquam led chants of  “Open up! Open up!”

‘Crazy Bernie’ Praises Brand

“I want to thank Mayor Lee Brand for standing up to the governor to show Sacramento and our great country that Fresno for once, instead of being the butt of jokes, can be the model for the safe reopening of this great country.” Bernie Siomiak, owner of Crazy Bernie Furniture

On Tuesday, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand announced that all retail stores will be allowed to reopen in some fashion next Monday.

That includes Crazy Bernie Furniture, and its namesake owner Bernie Siomiak, who has publicly attacked Brand and his handling of the pandemic. His furniture store received two citations for a total of $6,000 in fines for operating curbside pickup as a nonessential business.

That’s why it was surprising when Siomiak, wearing his trademark crown, praised Fresno’s mayor.

“I want to thank Mayor Lee Brand for standing up to the governor to show Sacramento and our great country that Fresno for once, instead of being the butt of jokes, can be the model for the safe reopening of this great country,” Siomiak said.

Fresno Isn’t Reopening Fast Enough for Some

Speakers talked about the inequity of big box stores remaining open, but smaller stores being deemed nonessential.

Tara Smith, who owns Creative Tile with her husband, told the crowd simply “We need to open up now!”

Dine-in restaurants, hair-care, gyms, and entertainment venues will remain on the sideline, subject to more stringent criteria before the state allows them to reopen.

Restaurant owner Mike Shirinian, attending the event, said Brand isn’t acting fast enough.

“It’s a step in the right direction. The whole process needs to get accelerated. I think it’s better than nothing,” Shirinian said. “We need to get this open. Like yesterday.”

Shirinian served on Brand’s Fresno Recovery Advisory Committee before quitting last week, questioning Brand’s leadership.

Creative Tile owner Tara Smith speaks at the Fresno Freedom Rally (GV Wire/David Taub)

Vibrant Atmosphere

Police were visible at the event, but kept their distance, usually across the street. Police chief Andy Hall roamed around, cheerfully greeted by well-wishers asking for pictures.

Many cars passing along O Street honked their horns, creating a festive atmosphere.

A few elected leaders spoke including councilman Garry Bredefeld — who has been critical of the city’s process of closing businesses — and county supervisors Steve Brandau and Nathan Magsig, who urged the audience to contact Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The only commerce taking place was a booth selling Donald Trump merchandise. Not a single food truck capitalized on the crowd and ideal weather.

Councilman Miguel Arias, a supporter of the way the city has been handling COVID-19, passed through the crowd on the way to City Hall.

“This will be the best parking revenue day we’ve had in a while,” he said.

Left to right: conservative activist Ben Bergquam, Power Talk 96.7 host Trevor Carey, and Fresno County supervisors Steve Brandau and Nathan Magsig at the Fresno Freedom Rally. (GV Wire/David Taub)

More Photos of Fresno Freedom Rally

4 Responses

  1. MGomez

    Miguel Arias passed through the crowd on his way to his office, so he could look in the mirror and tell himself “I save lives”.

  2. Paul

    Typical, Trump boot lickers desecration the flag with mindless protests and sales of trump propoganda. That is the real hoax.

  3. Katherine

    Gee, here’s a scenario…what if… our POTUS had not dismantled our CDC? Was quick to respond to what was happening in China? Nah, virus hoax! Not going to happen in our great Nation, virus is a hoax! What if…he stopped pretending like he knew better than the medical experts what course of action our nation should take? Nah, your Fired!! What if he didn’t really say…here’s how we can fight Covid-19…inject Clorox, use ultralight cancer therapy, it may work. And on and on ad nauseum…

    So, maybe, if the above scenarios really didn’t play out? Would there be protests on our city streets insinuating that our governor and city mayors are the real reasons we are still sheltering in place? I can’t wait until there is another local election.


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