Jeff Pack
Staff Writer

Originally scheduled for Hell’s Kitchen Motorsports Bar & Grill in Lake Elsinore, the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 went off without a hitch on Saturday, July 18 at Hawk Ranch in Murrieta. 

The protest, which Hell’s Kitchen owner Frank Opp said was forced to move due to warnings from state and law enforcement officials, drew a large crowd to the ranch in temperatures that reached into the low 90s. 

The event, which was billed as a protest rally to address current issues in the state such as business closures and the defunding of police, also featured live music, four food trucks, and alcoholic beverages for sale. 

At the forefront of the conversation on Saturday was the recall efforts to remove California Governor Gavin Newsom who has ordered the closure of varying types of businesses at several points during the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. 

On July 13, Newsom ordered a new round of closures, effectively ceasing indoor operations at gyms, hair salons, houses of worship, personal-care services, malls, and non-critical office settings.

The event featured a full lineup of speakers, including Opp, California State Senator Melissa Melendez, Pastor Tim Thompson, and radio show host Joe Messina.

412 Church Murrieta Pastor Tim Thompson speaks to the crowd at the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

“They’re telling us that we can’t gather together and worship God in one place that we can’t assemble together,” Thompson said. “Even though God says not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. And I say shame on any pastor that would close his doors and not allow people into worship.”

Thompson, the pastor at 412 Church in Murrieta and President of Our Watch with Tim Thompson, has been outspoken about Gov. Newsom. 

“We’ve seen a push towards corporatism,” he said. “We’ve seen a push towards having the big corporations, run everything, and push the small businesses down. Why? Because it is the small businesses that exemplify the very character of what America’s supposed to be. America is the land of opportunity. That’s what people around the world know that if you come to America, doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your bank account. It doesn’t matter what gender you are. If you come here and you’re willing to work, you can make something of yourself.

“And it is the globalists right now that are trying to destroy that. And when I say globalist, I’m talking about people like Gavin Newsom.”

Sen. Melendez also took aim at Newsom.

California State Senator Melissa Melendez talks to the crowd at the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

“Are you sick and tired of being treated like royal subjects by Gavin Newsom?” she asked the crowd. “As Americans and as Californians, we have rights. I know governor Newsom doesn’t like to think about that, but we have rights — rights that cannot be denied. 

“Sorry, I’m angry, man. I’ve had it. I have had it.”

Sen. Melendez read through California Constitution, starting with the Preamble, and addressed portions that she said were under attack. 

“‘We, the people of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this constitution,’” Melendez read. “That is our state constitution preamble. I think maybe I should make a copy of that and lay it on the governor’s desk to remind him.”

She then read Section II of the state constitution. 

“The state constitution guarantees those rights, but you wouldn’t know it by living in this state, would you?” Sen. Melendez said. “We have had over a dozen lawsuits filed against this governor — over a dozen. Every single one of them was dismissed in court. Every single one of them. We’ve introduced bills to revoke the governor’s emergency power. End the state of emergency, which takes his powers away, to put essentially laws into place, which is what he has been doing. (Do) you know what happened with those? The majority party, the Democrat party, won’t allow them to be heard.”

Sen. Melendez said she’s had enough. 

“The very person who pays absolutely no personal price for the decisions he’s making for all of California is the one making decisions for everyone in California,” she said. “So, instead we’re supposed to wait patiently, like children being scolded and just wait for him to tell us when we can have our freedom back. I don’t think so.

“I’m out of patience. Are you? I think we need to remind King Newsom of exactly what type of government we have. It is the government of by and for the people. We need to remind him that the government derives its power from the consent of the governed. I don’t give my consent anymore to be governed in this way. Do you?”

Freedom Protest Rally 2020 organizer, Frank Opp, owner of Hell’s Kitchen Motorsports Bar & Grill, speaks to the crowd in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

Sen. Melendez was welcomed to the stage by Opp who explained why he planned the rally. He said he had abided by the state closures and kept his restaurant closed. When he was allowed to reopen, the new closures shut him down again. 

“Not only did we suffer for three months, wanting to get open and start going back to the economy again,” he said. “Now (Newsom) just took another big chunk of money from them. That’s when I said, ‘Enough’s enough.’”

Opp said he was talking to a friend when the idea of a protest came up. 

“The one thing I learned from the three months of sitting at home, not being able to work, is that if you protest you pretty much can do anything you want,” he said. “You don’t have to wear a mask. You can run the streets. You can stop the freeways. You can bash in windows. You can turn over cars. You can burn things if you’re protesting (expletive).

“Well, apparently he went and he put my words into paper and put it on Facebook. Then I had it sent to me and I go, ‘I guess I’m going to put on a protest. That’s how it started.’”

Opp thanked the crowd for showing up and said the rally was a part of something bigger. 

“My vision was to have one focal point where we can get the message out,” he said. “We get the word out to all of us, small family-owned businesses: Don’t shut your doors. Hang on as long as you can, we’re putting together a support team for you. If things are getting hard, you need to contact us. We need to know. We need to be able to come over there and support you. If they start coming down on you like they’re going to do me … I know they are, it’s already happening. We needed a voice, a voice big enough to scare that family that thinks that they run the State of California.”

Members of the crowd clap and cheer for one of the speakers at the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

Opp was encouraged by the turnout on Saturday. 

“This is our country,” he said. “This is not the politicians’ country. We elected them. They work for us. If we don’t like what they’re doing, then we say something and we correct it. In the sincereness from my heart, this really touches me. It touches me because you guys are Americans that actually care about what’s going on.”

New York Myke of San Diego Harley-Davidson speaks at the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

New York Myke of San Diego Harley-Davidson also spoke to the crowd. 

“We are losing 22 service members and veterans every day to suicide,” he said. “What does that tell you? It tells you there’s something sick about America. When they came back from World War II (like) my dad did, you didn’t see them committing suicide. They just saved the world. And when we came back from Vietnam, we got spit on. We got cursed and called baby killers and different names, we didn’t commit suicide. Why are they committing suicide today? There’s something wrong in America. And what it is, is growing creeping fascism, and that’s who we’re fighting against.”

Radio show host Joe Messina introduces California gubernatorial candidate, Major Williams, to the stage during the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo

California gubernatorial candidate Major Williams was also introduced to the crowd. 

“You ask me why I’m running for governor of California is because I’m frustrated, just like you,” Williams said. “I’m a parent, just like you. I see the disparities going on in our community. I see our rights being taken away from us. It’s time for us to stand up, use our voices and we need a champion to be able to do that. Can I get an amen? I’m in my audience, right? We love God, right? We love our guns, right? And we love our freedom. That’s why I’m running to become the next governor of California. 

“I just wanted to come here and say, I support this movement. I support California. I support our communities. It’s time to get behind everyone in your community and get people registered to vote. That’s so important. We have to battle our hardest. We have to fight how they fight. We have to get clever. We have to be vicious. We have to be vigilant. We have to be a hardcore, California.”

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.

A member of the crowd prays during the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
A young girl sits on her mother’s shoulders during the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
Audience members hold their hands up in prayer at the beginning of the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
A band plays during the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
An audience member claps during the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
The crowd listens to speakers during the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
A couple listens to speakers during the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
A family looks for a place to sit during the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
Food trucks were on hand at the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
The flag of the United States of America is presented at the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo
Jason White sings the National Anthem during the Freedom Protest Rally 2020 in Murrieta on Saturday, July 18. Valley News/Jeff Pack photo