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Vaccine tensions deepen after protesters disrupt Healdsburg city council meeting

The Healdsburg City Council was forced to hold its meeting virtually Monday after a group of protesters against Covid-19 vaccination requirements entered the council’s chambers.

The crowd of protesters banged on the windows of Healdsburg City Hall prior to entering the chambers, at which point city officials decided to hold the meeting virtually in the interest of security.

The council has repeatedly faced backlash at recent meetings after approving a requirement that all attendees — residents, city employees, and city council members – must prove their full vaccination status to attend in-person meetings.

That requirement led to Councilwoman Skylaer Palacios and multiple members of the public accusing the council’s other four members of racially discriminating against her because she is unvaccinated, and was thus not permitted in the city’s council chambers.

Palacios, who has Black and Indigenous heritage, argued that her exclusion from participating in meetings in person was akin to the racial segregation codified by Jim Crow laws in the southern United States in the last 19th and 20th centuries.

Palacios said at the Nov. 18 meeting:

“We cannot have certain options for engagement for certain members of the public and not for others. … These policies can replicate the Jim Crow-era laws of separate but equal. Let us learn from the past and move forward justly.”

On Monday, Palacios sought to clarify her comments, arguing that she utilized Jim Crow laws as an example of segregation and “the segregation being faced by unvaccinated individuals:

Just as people do not want to be called racist, people do not like experiencing racism. … And just as people do not want to be seen as causing division, people do not like experiencing division or being othered.”

The council voted last month to maintain a hybrid meeting format for the foreseeable future, allowing unvaccinated residents and employees as well as those who are unable to prove their full vaccination status the option of participating remotely.

While Palacios has pushed for an alternative means of proving that attendees are not contagious, such as presenting a recent negative Covid-19 test, the council’s other four members have balked at that suggestion.

The council also voted 4-1 Monday, with Palacios dissenting, to authorize future virtual meetings as necessary.

Palacios said:

While I believe that meetings should be hybridized, I do not agree with the public health guidelines of vaccine verification that coincide with this item. … I believe it is unjust and I think the city could be facing legal repercussions.”

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