An overpass bridge running tangential to Templeton High School in Templeton, Calif., has been a gathering place for local protestors for several years.
The bridge is within view of the Templeton High School campus. At the gatherings, flags are flown supporting causes such as the “All Lives Matter” movement, the “Trump Won The Election” movement, the “Trump 2024” movement, the InfoWars.com website, and other general causes including “The People Are Pissed,” the Israeli flag or the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag.
Recently, about two months ago, protestors with different viewpoints have started displaying conflicting ideologies on the bridge. Janice Mundee, one of the key organizers for the oppositional group, believes their group represents the love for democracy and the opposition of fascism. They meet on the bridge every Tuesday because they’re aligned with an organization called Truth Tuesdays.
This resulted on Sept. 20 in perpetrator Miguel Angel Olivares allegedly pepper-spraying activists following a verbal argument with the protestors.
“This person saw my event on Facebook, [allegedly] because I posted it publicly, and made a calculated move to come up from Arroyo Grande, and to join us, and to look for a reason to bring out his pepper spray,” Mundee said.
Before the alleged pepper spray assault, the bridge was primarily a meeting point for conservative protests. Representative Cheryl Burbach of the San Luis Obispo Republican Headquarters in Atascadero said that the protestors out on Vineyard Drive Bridge have no affiliations with the Republican Headquarters.
A protester on location who went by an alias, John Huss, said that the general ideological mission of the protest is to display that freedom of speech in the United States should be number one priority.
“We’re standing up against the trampling of our civil liberties,” Huss said.
Rita Casaverde, Chair of the San Luis Obispo Democratic Party Central Committee, said the organization was aware of the protests.
“I support their freedom of speech and I actually salute their volunteers for having the commitment to show up every week,” Casaverde said. “And even though I don’t agree with their messaging and I think they could be doing more productive things, yeah, they’re pretty committed and excited.”
Casaverde said the Democratic Party of SLO has held their own protests on bridges, and that while she’s upset that those individuals are spending their time that way, it’s a loud part of the Republican Party that the community can’t do anything about.
“It’s hard to say, I mean I think if we look up voter registration I believe Templeton has a Republican majority,” Casaverde said. “It’s hard to know if everyone agrees with the message that the protestors show on the bridge.”
According to Huss, church groups started organizing the demonstrations with each other around November 2019, with notable churches involved being the Revival Center Church in Templeton, Calif., and the Refuge Church of Atascadero, Calif..
Huss referred to a group called the Central Coast Patriots as being a part of the demonstrations, but said overall the group of protestors do not represent a wider overall organization. Huss said he himself is not a member of any group, and that he has not been on Facebook in years.
Huss said that the protestors maintain contact with one another through text messages, or the Telegram app. An administrator of the Central Coast Patriots’ Facebook page wished not to be quoted for this story.
A representative of the Refuge Church said they have no affiliations with the protestors as an organization. Pastor Gabe Abdelaziz of the Revival Center also said there were no affiliations.
Dan Dow, District Attorney of San Luis Obispo County, was reached out to for comment. This was after a report from Huss that some protestors may have ties to the man.
“Mr. Dow does not know anything about this matter and is not affiliated in any way with the activity on the Vineyard overpass,” said Nancy Lovelace, a representative of the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s office.
The protestors can be seen out on the Vineyard bridge every Wednesday and Sunday late afternoon. John Huss said that they will continue until stopped, namely by enforcement.
The conservative protestors can be seen out on the Vineyard Drive Bridge most Wednesday and Sunday late afternoons, with the pro-democracy protestors on the bridge on select Tuesday mornings. Huss said that they will continue until stopped, namely by enforcement.
“I think that it’s a little overdue at this point,” said an anonymous Templeton High School student. “The election’s over, it’s been like two years. I think that it’s time to move on.
“I don’t think they’re – I mean, I think they could be distracting drivers as well on the freeway, and they’re kinda in a bike lane as well,” continued the high school student. “I don’t know, it doesn’t really seem very logical to me,”
The high school student went on to say that while he doesn’t support their actions, he does respect their freedom of speech, and that he does in fact feel safe despite the protestors being so close to the school.
“I think if provoked, they might yell and be a little nasty, but I don’t think any physical violence will happen if it’s a minor,” said Audrey Krupa, a Templeton High School student. “I do not support their actions. I think they have the right to protest, but, I think it’s kinda silly some of the things they’re saying, and they don’t have a lot of proof for a lot of the things like the stolen election.
“It’s been disproved multiple, multiple times.”
Krupa went on to say that while she disagrees with the protestors, she respects their freedoms of speech.
“Nothing has happened to any kids, as far as I know, so it doesn’t look like the people on the bridge are actively being mean or violent,” said Mundee, when asked if she’s concerned for the safety of the students.
She added however, that she believes the Trump contingency creates fear of violence.
Mundee said that their next protest would take place on Oct. 4. She said they would be accompanied by law enforcement for protection.
Aaron Asplund, superintendent of Templeton High School, refused to provide comment for this story.