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California

3 arrested at beach protest against California stay-at-home order

A big number of Trump supporters rally April 17 on Main Street in Huntington Beach against business closures due to COVID-19 pandemic.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Three people protesting California’s stay-at-home order Saturday in an Encinitas protest were arrested on suspicion of violating San Diego County health orders, marking the latest in a series of rallies along the coast.

About 75 to 100 people gathered near the San Diego County beach to express their disaffection with ongoing stay-at-home orders that also limit access to public parks and beaches.

Several participants were said to have ventured past police tape onto the sand. Three attendees refused to comply with multiple verbal warnings and were arrested, the department said. Others marched without incident toward Swami’s Beach Park and dispersed around noon.

In addition to the arrests, deputies issued one traffic citation and seven parking tickets during the morning protest.

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Over the last few days, there have been protests in San Diego, Newport Beach, Sacramento, Huntington Beach and San Clemente.

An Orange County man has been arrested on suspicion of threatening a KTTV Channel 11 cameraman with a knife hours after the Huntington Beach protest. In San Diego, a woman who police say organized a protest could face a misdemeanor charge of encouraging others to violate stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

A police spokesman said the department forwarded the case to the San Diego city attorney’s office for review Tuesday. The move comes after some, including civil rights activists, questioned why police did not cite protesters last weekend for ignoring the orders.

Demonstrators have said it’s time to reopen the economy and ease the rules. But many medical experts and officials in California have said there could be grave repercussions to reopening businesses too early.

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A new Associated Press poll found an overwhelming majority of Americans support the stay-at-home orders, seeing them as helpful in combating the coronavirus outbreak.

Other polls show similar support. For example, a poll of 1,990 voters conducted by Politico/Morning Consult showed that 81% supported continuing social distancing for as long as needed. Only 10% supported ending social distancing to stimulate the economy.

California’s relatively quick action to close businesses and order residents to stay home has tamped down the coronavirus outbreak and left many hospitals largely empty, waiting for a surge that has yet to come.

The initial success of the unprecedented shutdown of schools, businesses and other institutions has pleased experts and public health officials, prompting calls to keep the restrictions in place at least into May to help cement the progress.

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Social distancing will be a critical factor. Lifting restrictions too early would likely lead to dangerous new jumps in cases.

Up the coast in Carlsbad, about 30 protesters gathered near a state beach for an afternoon rally, waving signs in support of reopening sites, Carlsbad police Lt. Greg White said. The afternoon rally, at Carlsbad Boulevard and Pine Avenue, ran roughly two hours and stayed peaceful.

”They were courteous and respectful,” White said.

The protest came as the stay-at-home order faces its first big test with a weekend heat wave.

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Thousands flooded Orange and Ventura county beaches, which were open. Los Angeles County beaches were closed.

For many, the confluence of a heat wave and more than a month sheltering at home made the hot sand irresistible, prompting beach tableaux that looked more like a peak summer day in normal times than an April Saturday with a respiratory disease circulating among the population.

“After being cooped up, we understand people want to enjoy the outside,” said Ventura Police Cmdr. Tom Higgins, who described Saturday’s beach crowds as unseasonably large.

For the most part, beachgoers kept at least six feet apart from one another, officials said.

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Heather Rangel, press information officer for the Newport Beach Police Department, said Saturday that there had been no arrests or citations related to the stay-at-home orders.

“The beaches are crowded and look like a summer day in Newport Beach,” she said in an email.

Huntington Beach elected to keep its coastline open, though the pier, beach parking lots and some metered parking remain closed.

Angie Bennett, spokeswoman for the Huntington Beach Police Department, said Saturday that the beaches appeared somewhat busy, but there were no significant incidents, and no one was cited for violating social-distancing guidelines.

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“What the patrol officers are seeing is that people are staying within their own groups and appropriate distances apart,” she said. “It’s been a nice, warm day, and it sounds like people are complying and doing what we are asking of them.”

Campa and Wigglesworth are Times staff writers. Van Grove writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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