Even as stay-at-home orders ease, protesters say it’s not enough

Wally Thomas of Lake Forest, center, and Denean MacAndrew of Mission Viejo protest at Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach on Saturday.
Wally Thomas of Lake Forest, center, and Denean MacAndrew of Mission Viejo protest at Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach on Saturday.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Even as the first weekend of relaxed coronavirus restrictions in California brought people back out to hiking trails, parks and beaches, some protesters took to the streets to argue it wasn’t enough.

The changes in restrictions come amid new reminders that the virus is still a major threat.

Los Angeles County public health officials on Saturday reported 1,011 new coronavirus cases and 44 related deaths, pushing the total number of virus-related deaths to more than 1,500.


Officials say it’s crucial to continue practicing physical distancing and frequent handwashing, and that those who are older or have underlying health conditions should continue to stay home.

“If you are out and about this weekend, please take every precaution since any one of us, even if we are not sick, could be infected with COVID-19 and capable of infecting others,” Ferrer said Saturday.

That includes staying six feet away from others and wearing a face covering if others are near you, she said.

“These actions are critically important,” Ferrer said, “as we begin the journey of recovery so that we don’t find ourselves with large increases in hospitalizations and deaths that would require us to reinstitute restrictions.”

An estimated 1,500 demonstrators turned up Saturday in Huntington Beach, city police spokeswoman Angela Bennett said. They called for both the state and the nation to fully reopen — both economically and socially — and protested precautions that were implemented to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Some demonstrators danced to songs such as Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” in front of the pier.

Jay Smith of Tustin said this was the second time he had come to Huntington Beach for a protest. He was motivated to do so because, he said, 1st Amendment freedoms were being taken away.

He brought his three children, and one of his daughters held up a sign that drew attention to the freedoms of religion, speech and the press, as well as the rights to assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Smith indicated that a priority for him was to open churches.

“We hope, first of all, the churches get opened because the pastors need to be the leaders in America, that talk about not only our freedoms in America, but our freedoms from sin,” Smith said. “There’s a worse virus that’s out there right now most people don’t know about, and that virus is a virus of sin, that will kill people not only physically but eternally.

“These pastors need to open up the churches and be bold. Pastors are what helped start America, and they need to be leaders now again.”

Chris Young of Lakewood also said he wanted to return to church. “I can’t go to church right now,” Young said, “and I go to church every Sunday. I worship there, and I can’t go right now, so it’s kind of hard for that.”

Meanwhile, parks, trails and golf course saw people return enthusiastically.

The reopening of Griffith Park’s trails Saturday could not come soon enough for Hector Cervantes, a 35-year-old machinist and avid hiker, who said, “After three months at home in lockdown, I was starting to feel like a slave in a prison run by dangerous germs.

“To finally be outdoors again,” he added, walking along a shady stretch of Vermont Avenue crowded with fellow hikers, “is like being set free.” Though trails are open, roads into Griffith Park remained closed to traffic.

Nearby, Porsche O’Neil, 63, an executive at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, was enjoying a seven-mile hike. He had seen two deer in a glade of oak trees where acorn woodpeckers flitted among the branches.

“Those deer were happy, beautiful and eating without a care in the world,” she said. “And hikers were respectful. Everyone oohed and aahed from a respectful distance. Nobody rushed toward them with cameras. It’s been that kind of a wonderful day.”