As the COVID crisis continues to cripple Los Angeles, a faction of Trump supporters has been storming into public places unmasked, possibly exposing people to the virus and berating them for simply following common-sense health and safety rules. Now, an organizer behind one of the most brazen groups insists that they’re not going to stop because their “freedoms” are at stake.
While in recent weeks we’ve seen Kirk Cameron’s mask-optional Christmas carols, a maskless stampede at Erewhon, and an evangelical singer hosting a potential super-spreader concert at Skid Row, none of these incidents compare to the scene at Westfield Century City on January 4, when a throng of anti-maskers descended on the mall.
“People die,” a male protestor was caught on camera telling a visibly distraught woman whose father had been infected. The freedom fighter then informs her that her father “wasn’t special.”
“I don’t tell people where our events are going to be because they might shut them down, but we’ll definitely have other ones, and we’re not going to stop till we get our freedoms back,” Shiva Bagheri—the founder of Beverly Hills Freedom Rally, which organized the Westfield action—tells the Hollywood Reporter.
Bagheri, a Beverly Hills dog walker and the artistic director of Shiva Dance and Fitness, also believes that last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol building that left five dead was a worthy bid to restore American sovereignty.
“I think the storming of the Capitol was OK because it put our congressmen in check,” she says. “What’s worse is that our representatives have sold us out to hostile foreign governments.” Bagheri’s theory involves foreign powers manipulating the fates of patriots to establish a New World Order with the help of Justin Trudeau, Islamic fascists, and—natch—Bill Gates.
Her statements and actions notwithstanding, Bagheri doesn’t want to be painted with the same broad strokes as other Trump true believers.
“I wanted to bust the bubbles of these liberals that think that we are white supremacists because CNN and MSDNC says so,” Bagheri said in a YouTube interview this summer. “I think it’s important for them to see that we are very diverse, but not in even our exteriors, but even in our values, we’re very diverse. We have all sorts of people here.”
Bagheri also explained that she has a personal connection to the American dream, saying, “I’m from Iran originally, so I was an immigrant from Iran, but we came here legally […] We don’t believe in identity politics, OK? But we have to sometimes use it because we have to talk to the Democrats who are so hung up on it.”
Whatever the message, Bagheri’s campaign hasn’t come without a price. She’s involved in some kind of dismal feud with former Photoshop enthusiast Perez Hilton, and Yelp has had to suspend reviews of her dance and fitness classes due to “an influx of people posting their views to this page.”