Costa Mesa calls second curfew as protesters set sights on South Coast Plaza
Costa Mesa officials instituted a second overnight curfew Monday as protests against the May 25 death of unarmed black resident George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police — which have drawn the attention of looters and rioters — hit neighboring Huntington Beach and Santa Ana.
The line between protest and riot was blurred as Santa Ana police were called to contain looting that broke out in area stores on Saturday. In Huntington Beach on Sunday, hundreds of protesters were disbanded as law enforcement officials issued a declaration of unlawful assembly and arrested 17 people.
Fears of civil unrest at South Coast Plaza, following reports that a protest was being planned for Monday evening at the shopping center, delayed its publicized reopening, mall officials said on social media.
“We are saddened by the recent events in our country and care deeply for the safety and well-being of our entire community,” said the message posted Sunday. “Please check back for updates.”
Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Byron de Arakal said he drove by South Coast Plaza on Monday morning and saw barricades on the streets leading into the shopping center and workers boarding up the west-facing display windows at the mall’s Crystal Court.
Similar precautions were being taken at nearby Shiffer Park, on Bear Street less than a mile away from South Coast Plaza, he said.
“The city’s just being abundantly cautious, which I think is smart,” de Arakal added, saying he had full confidence in the police department. “Hopefully everything works out well, and if there is a protest, everything’s peaceful.”
Many businesses in downtown Huntington Beach were boarded up Sunday night, when no major looting was reported during a protest, which was deemed an unlawful assembly by the Huntington Beach Police Department.
City Hall had also tentatively planned to reopen Monday, but that has been postponed, a city spokesman said.
City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison declared a local emergency Sunday evening, shutting down the city to the public from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, as organizers protested and rioters clashed with police in nearby Huntington Beach.
Immediately after the city’s announcement on social media, Costa Mesa Police Department representatives explained on Twitter that the curfew was a response to unrest in neighboring cities and social media posts conveying “plans to congregate in the city merely to loot and vandalize businesses.”
“While the city of Costa Mesa supports the public’s right to peaceably assemble and protest outside the curfew hours, it does not support vandalism, rioting and looting,” read the department’s tweets. “During the curfew, all persons are prohibited from traveling on public streets, alleys, parks or any public place.”
Department spokeswoman Roxi Fyad said police are monitoring the city and responding to community concerns.
“We do have an action plan in place; we just can’t share specifics,” Fyad said Monday. “We’ve got to make sure we’re ensuring officers’ safety.”
President Trump after 48 hours of public silence, threatens to deploy troops to major cities to quell civil unrest. Democrats express outrage.
A second curfew order issued Monday morning told residents to remain in their homes from 7 p.m. Monday until 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Those traveling to and from work, attending religious services or seeking emergency care are exempt from the order.
Police officials announced that several streets would be closed until deemed safe for reopening:
- Sunflower Avenue between Bear and Bristol streets
- Bear Street between Sunflower and Paularino avenues
- Southbound Bristol between Sunflower and the 405 Freeway
- South Coast Drive between Bear and the 405 Freeway offramp
- Plaza Drive at Sunflower Avenue
The closures followed social media buzz growing around a protest being planned for Monday at 8 p.m. at South Coast Plaza.
The origin of the announcements is unknown, but participants were called to “mask up” and “bring your friends” for protests described as peaceful.
One online flier, however, declared “our only enemies is the cops” and contained a misspelling of Floyd’s surname over a photo of a police riot line illuminated by fireworks.
The 213 new cases were the fourth-highest single day total in Orange County during the coronavirus pandemic. No new deaths were reported Monday, leaving the death count at 147.
Cardine writes for Times Community News.
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