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California State Capitol holiday tree lighting moves to virtual event due to concerns over protests

Pro-Palestinian rally forces cancellation of State Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony
Pro-Palestinian rally forces cancellation of State Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony 03:00

SACRAMENTO – Tuesday's planned holiday tree lighting ceremony at the California State Capitol will be virtual this year due to concerns over protests, the governor's office confirmed.

The Sacramento Regional Coalition for Palestinian Rights had announced a rally and march to the State Capitol that would start around the same time as the tree lighting ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

"We are here today to tell Governor Newsom that canceling his event and doing it virtual was not the right thing. We are here to peacefully tell him and demand to do something," said Adeeb Alzanoon, who attended the rally. 

Others at the rally said they were "disappointed" that the tree lighting was moved to a virtual event, as it meant their message and calls for Gov. Newsom to meet with pro-Palestine groups, would not be heard. 

Sacramento's Midtown Association had already announced back on Nov. 29 that the planned holiday market would not be happening, also due to concerns over protests.

Then, on Tuesday, a spokesperson from Gov. Gavin Newsom's office confirmed that the tree lighting ceremony also wouldn't be happening in person.

"As we continue to see protests across the country impacting the safety of events of all scales – and for the safety and security of all participating members and guests including children and families – the ceremony this year will be virtual," the spokesperson said in a statement.

Part of the tree lighting event was filmed inside the state capital on Monday, according to a family invited to participate in the pre-taped festivities. 

Harley Goodpasture, 5, was the first Native American child to assist with the ceremony. As part of the tradition of the tree lighting, the Governor's Office said "Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from all over California created ornaments that will adorn this year's majestic 60-foot red fir tree, and this long-standing tradition was expanded this year to include 21 trees from all regional centers."

"It's a huge honor and really, really important for the tribal population," said Season Goodpasture on Tuesday, at a visit to the state's Christmas tree alongside Harley. 

Season and James Goodpasture created "Acorns to Oak Trees", a nonprofit Tribal Organization making a difference in the lives of Native American children with special needs. This is also the first regional center vendored service on tribal land. Season is a member of the Susanville Indian Rancheria in Northern California, and Harley along with her father James and siblings are members of the Pala Band of Mission Indians. 

The governor's office said the program would remain unchanged, but people would have to tune in on Wednesday evening to watch via the governor's social media. 

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