A pastor has shared video of what he claims were 12,000 people at a service on the California State Capitol grounds Sunday.
Sean Feucht posted drone footage of the event, showing thousands of people gathered, where few appear to be wearing masks or socially distanced. The California Highway Patrol had issued a permit for the event for 1,000 people.
There is no longer a limit on how many people can attend in-person protests but those attending should practice social distancing, according to guidance.
But Feucht, who is connected to the Bethel Church in Redding, said: ‘Official Capitol Hill police estimate was 12,000 tonight in Sacramento!!! GOD IS NOT DONE WITH CALIFORNIA!!! #LetUsWorship.’
California has more than 740,000 cases of the coronavirus, and the death toll stands at 13,763.
Jaime Coffee, public information officer for the CHP, had a lower estimate for the attendance, saying 3,000 people were there.
He added: ‘The majority of the participants gathered on the west steps and failed to socially distance.
‘Prior to the event start, the Capitol Permit Officer indicated those who were showing up at the Capitol were socially distancing. Additionally, the permit officer was walking around the crowd verbally reminding people.
‘Given the large number of people present for this event and the fact that it was a relatively short event the on scene manager made the decision to let the event continue to conclusion.
‘Other factors involved in this decision include factoring in the resources needed to disperse a crowd of this size, safety of the participants, the time it would take, as well as other protest events in the Sacramento area.’
California’s Senate Republican leader Shannon Grove also attended; she had been in direct contact with Sen. Brian Jones, who tested positive for the coronavirus on August 26.
Feucht started the Let Us Worship Movement in response to coronavirus lockdowns. He has been holding services across the United States throughout the pandemic.
Footage from Sunday’s event showed little social distancing and few worshipers in masks.
On his website Feucht writes: ‘Powerful politicians and social media giants have engaged in unchartered abuses of religious liberty, silencing the faithful, banning our voices, and outright attacking our God-given right to declare His goodness.’
He added on Facebook: ‘The freedom to worship God is the constitutional right of every American citizen and those who exercise this right should not be unfairly targeted for criticism.’
On Monday night Feucht planned to hold a similar event in Seattle but the park location was closed by local authorities.
Feucht said on Twitter: ‘See ya in the streets next to GasWorks Park!
‘They can close down the park, but will never silence the church of Seattle!!!’
Infectious Disease expert, Dr. Dean Blumberg, told CBS of the California gathering: ‘That’s really a recipe for transmission and can lead to further outbreaks not only among the people who are in attendance but their contacts, too.’