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Hundreds rallied at Fresno City Hall in May to call for businesses to reopen. Photo by Edward Smith

published on May 6, 2020 - 3:07 PM
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“Freedom, Freedom, Freedom,” chanted protestors at the “Fresno Freedom Rally” Wednesday in front of Fresno City Hall.

An estimated 275 people gathered to call for “non-essential” businesses to be able to reopen and to hear from local community and business leaders on how the coronavirus lockdown is affecting the local economy.

The event was hosted by Ben Berquam, the right-wing activist behind Frontline America, a media company he founded with a mission to expose “the left and inspiring/mobilizing Christian conservatives to stand up for they believe in.”

“Small business owners are being absolutely destroyed,” Berguam said. “We have to have representatives that are willing to stand up for small businesses that make this community and country great. It’s not about big box stores, its not about big businesses — small business is the backbone of our country.”

Local elected leaders Garry Bredefeld and Steven Brandau, who have been vocal of their disapproval in the past about local and state government’s response to the pandemic, also spoke to the crowd.

“I’ve raised my hand and took an oath twice to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all foreign and domestic enemies,” Bredefeld said during his speech. “It is the supreme law of the land. It doesn’t take a second place to anything—not a virus, not public safety and not politicians drunk with power.”

Bredefeld said official forecasts over-projected the number of deaths and infection rates that would occur, and that the data drove irrational and unconstitutional legislation.

While Bredefeld did point out that only nine people have died in Fresno County due to COVID-19, on Tuesday, the Fresno County Department of Public Health set a one-day reporting record with 52 new confirmed cases, bringing the number to 724 positive cases.

Cars and trucks, including some tow trucks and big rigs adorned with American flags, paraded on P Street in front of city hall, honking their horns in support.

Bernie Siomiak, locally known as Crazy Bernie, owner of Crazy Bernie Furniture Store on West Shaw and Brawley Avenues in Fresno, received more than $6,000 in fines for operating as a non-essential business. He was one of the business owners at the rally to voice discontent with local and state government actions.

“I’ve been in the news lately because of the fines the city gave me when my showroom was closed.” Siomiak said. “Well it didn’t work, because since then my internet sales have exploded and my phone has been blowing up with calls of people supporting me.”

Siomiak said that he told Mayor Lee Brand that he would be speaking at today’s rally, and that he would be saying things that were unflattering towards him and city hall. But Siomiak said he decided not to read his speech calling city hall representatives “cowards.”

But Siomiak did thank Brand for standing up to the governor regarding some of his shelter-in-place orders.

The event, which started at 11 a.m., was scheduled to conclude at 1:00 p.m.

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