On Saturday Dec. 5 a three foot tall protester stood in front of the closed playground at Douglas Park proudly brandishing a sign that read “please let me swing!”

The two and a half year-old activist Izzy Savoy is part of a group of families fighting against the playground closure by organizing a petition to the County Board of Supervisors and exercising their right to protest.

The movement is led by local parents Jill Savoy, Laura Tabano, and Monzerrat Brunkhorst who disagree with the current restrictions that allow indoor malls to operate while outdoor playgrounds are closed. In their opinion, playgrounds are a relatively safe activity that is very important for children’s physical, emotional, and social wellbeing.

For Brunkhorst the playground was an invaluable resource to help her two cooped up toddlers burn off steam so she could focus on the challenges of running her local business Cafe de Mundo.

“I think it’s unfair because I live in Santa Monica and Santa Monica is expensive so I have a condo and I don’t have a backyard. All I have is the public spaces like the playground for my kids to go out and have a healthy way of spending time outside,” said Brunkhorst.

While Brunkhorst knows that hiking trails remain open, she doesn’t have time to drive thirty minutes or more every day just to get her children outside. Part of the reason she moved her family to Santa Monica was for the quality public schools and public spaces, neither of which are currently open.

Brunkhorst is not the only local parent with these frustrations. Her group’s petition to open public playgrounds has been signed by 468 community members. Several of these signatures were gathered at the protest on Saturday, where many park-goers voiced their support.

“I think for all of us it was a beautiful opportunity for the children to know that they have rights and they should express what they want and what they feel is the right thing to do,” said Brunkhorst. “At one point in the protest my son was screaming ‘open playgrounds’ and he’s only two and a half years old.”

While their protest movement has gained considerable steam, not all of the public response has been positive. When the organizers shared the event in a parents Facebook group, the post gained over 500 comments many of which were angry and disapproving.

The organizers still feel like they are doing the right thing. While they agree that playgrounds are not an appropriate space for immunocompromised children, they feel that in general playgrounds are less risky than retail stores and far more essential for children’s wellbeing.

“The whole point is we are trying to walk the talk and not just complain that we don’t agree with it, but show in a very respectful way why we don’t agree with it and why we think it’s important to care about our kids,” said Brunkhorst.

The reopen playgrounds petition can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/yxqyk9ck

Clara@smdp.com