Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley is battening down the hatches.
She’ll keep her family members inside, reassure skittish neighbors and do whatever else you do to prepare for anywhere from 50 to hundreds of protesters to descend upon your home.
To most, such a demonstration at one’s safest, most private space would feel violating and scary. To Foley, it’s old hat.
“The first time they came was when I was mayor,” she told TPM. “I had no idea they were coming — we were enjoying family time in the backyard when we started hearing people yelling with a bullhorn out in front.”
This was last summer, when Foley was mayor of Costa Mesa and protesters were furious about mask mandates meant to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The family hustled inside as the yells grew louder — all except one. Her 94-year-old grandmother had just woken up from a nap and blithely headed out to the porch to sit on her favorite chair.
“She opened the door to the front porch and I ran over there, like ‘oh no no Grandma, you can’t go outside!’” Foley recalled.
The 40 or 50 protesters, by Foley’s estimate, came back the next weekend too. Foley remembers trying to run a city council meeting from her kitchen via Zoom, her words muddied by the constant buzz of accusations and insults hurled by the protesters outside.
At one point during the demonstrations, protesters edged around the back of her house, standing on tiptoe to peer into the windows. She said that she, and her neighbors — already made uneasy by the crowd of unmasked and shouting people — called the police.
Months have passed, and Foley is no longer mayor of Costa Mesa. Now, she’s an Orange County supervisor, representing the second district. Her March election was historic: she’s the first Democratic woman ever to sit on the traditionally heavily Republican board, and the first Democrat to represent the second district in 127 years. The pandemic is no longer at the fever pitch it was last summer, as close to half of all American adults have been fully vaccinated, including more than 1.4 million in Orange County.
Much has changed. The animosity has not.
Earlier this month, protesters descended on the home of Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s health officer (his predecessor resigned last year after being doxxed and personally threatened). And now, a post is circulating on Facebook and Telegram with Foley’s picture, calling on people to “protest OC board member” and characterizing the Thursday evening event as a “house visit.” It has her home address at the bottom.
“Who knows who’s gonna show up at my house,” Foley said. “It’s a little concerning that it could be something more than people expressing their political views.”
A spokesperson at the Costa Mesa police department did not respond to TPM’s questions.
Sergeant Todd Hylton of the Orange County sheriff’s department told TPM that their officers will be working in a support capacity to the Costa Mesa police department, which has jurisdiction. He did not have an estimate of how many protesters are expected, calling the situation “fluid.”
Foley mentioned that the last county meeting had drawn 700 people, many of whom were mad about the same things she expects people to protest at her home: mandated “vaccine passports” and requirements that children get the COVID-19 vaccine without parental consent. Neither of which the county is doing.
The supervisors were considering a voluntary digital vaccine passport to ease things like international travel in places where being vaccinated is necessary for entry. And the mandated vaccine for children is just totally made up, inflamed by posts on social media.
“We’re not mandating that children get vaccinated without parental consent — we’re not even allowing that to happen,” Foley said, adding that state law only requires a written note of consent while Orange County mandates that a parent or guardian be physically present at the child’s vaccination.
When asked who was behind these conspiracy theories, Foley immediately reeled off names: Alan Hostetter, a retired police officer turned yoga teacher turned hard-core Trumpster; Morton Irvine Smith, scion of a wealthy developer family who has joined the board of Hostetter’s “American Phoenix Project”; and Leigh Dundas, a lawyer and anti-vaxxer who has reportedly been organizing people to protest the fake mandates at supervisor meetings.
The three have led anti-lockdown protests in Orange County and represent the new, hard right movement there, the LA Times reported. All of them were in D.C. for the January 6 insurrection. Hostetter’s home was raided by the FBI after he allegedly posted videos to social media from the balcony of the Capitol. Dundas posted now-deleted videos from near the doors of the building, the Times reported, though it’s not clear if she went inside. Smith has said he never entered the Capitol grounds.
Foley maintains that those three leaders know better and are simply “picking issues they feel will activate this base of residents.”
Many of those residents though, Foley said, truly believe.
“They are extremely passionate — some of them cry at the podium,” she said.