Police responded to calls about the unruly crowd at the Erewhon Market in the city’s Fairfax district on Tuesday afternoon.
Video showed staff attempting to block off the entrance to the store as dozens of maskless people tried to shove their way in.
The incident came just as Governor Gavin Newsom extended California‘s regional stay-at-home order amid a devastating surge in coronavirus cases, with hospitalizations in Los Angeles County growing ten-fold in the last two months.
The video from outside the Erewhon Market was recorded by West Hollywood resident Ira Brian Miller.
He said he was walking up to the store to pick up some cheese and vegetables when he watched the stampede of several dozen people descend on the entrance.
‘They were pushing their way in,’ Miller told the LA Times. ‘They were trying to push the workers out of the way for them to enter the store.’
When he got inside Miller said he saw one female protester telling other customers to take off their masks.
Officers with the LAPD’s Wilshire Division arrived at the scene at about 3.30pm. Over an hour later, video from local news outlets showed more than two dozen people without masks still milling about outside the store.
A group of protesters were seen holding a sign that read: ‘No vaccine against tyranny.’
KTLA spoke to organizers of the demonstration who voiced their belief that the government is infringing on citizens’ rights with coronavirus restrictions like mask mandates.
‘We’re not here coughing everything, smearing everything,’ Jason Traver told the outlet.
‘We just want to shop, we want to take our own precautions that we’ve been doing all of our lives, and we’ll be fine.’
Several some bystanders condemned the protest as reckless given the state of the city’s coronavirus crisis.
‘It’s very frustrating because in LA right now we have less than 0% capacity ICU beds,’ a man named Cody told KTLA.
‘The least you could do is wear a mask. And I don’t know why you’re trying to attack a business that’s just trying to survive during the pandemic.’
Police said they did not make any arrests but stayed outside the store to ensure the situation didn’t escalate.
Some of the protesters reportedly walked to a nearby Trader Joe’s supermarket to continue their demonstration after leaving Erewhon.
The incident took place as Los Angeles County broke its record for highest number of hospitalizations reported in a single day with more than 7,000. One fifth of those patients are in the ICU.
The daily figure was nearly a 1,000 percent increase from two months ago and more than three times the peak of a July surge, according to the county Department of Public Health.
The county also reported 227 new deaths on Tuesday, which included a backlog from delays in holiday reporting. In total, the county has seen a total of 719,833 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 9,482 related deaths.
Los Angeles has seen nearly 100,000 new cases in the last week alone, according to the data from Johns Hopkins University. Last week, the death toll hit record highs on consecutive days.
‘A person now dies every 10 minutes in LA County from COVID-19,’ the county’s Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said.
Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of California’s 40 million residents and has about 40 percent of its deaths, has struggled with a surge that has led to repeated record-breaking cases, hospitalizations and deaths statewide.
Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday that the state is setting up hospital beds in arenas, schools and tents there, though it’s struggling to staff them.
He said 96 percent of hospitals in the county were unable to accept patients by ambulance at some point over the weekend, compared with 33 percent in pre-surge times.
Newsom on Tuesday extended the state’s regional stay-at-home orders in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, which were previously set to expire this week.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr Mark Ghaly said the lockdown will be lifted when the regions show ‘ICU projections above or equal to 15 percent’.
He noted that four-week projections for both areas show capacity won’t improve and demand will continue to exceed available capacity.
Ghaly said many state hospitals are already being ‘stretched to provide the kind of care we want’ like a rubber band.
‘You can certainly stretch rubber bands pretty far – as we are pushing our hospitals pretty far – but we know that the stretch has a limit before it breaks,’ he said.