Protesters rally to open beach, state in Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach

Protesters continued to display their discontent on Saturday with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to have a “hard close” of Orange County’s beaches.

A day after demonstrators congregated at the intersection of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway to rally against stay-at-home orders in Huntington Beach, another organized protest took place in Laguna Beach.

At the start of the day, an orange netted barrier had been put up around the town’s beach access points.

Those barriers did not hold, as protesters made their way onto the sand and continued the demonstration in the afternoon.

The Laguna Beach City Council had recently voted to allow for active use of its beaches from 6 to 10 a.m. on weekdays only. Laguna Beach Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said there had been overwhelming support for the phased opening plan, but he backed Newsom’s right to close the beach.

“I think it’s unfortunate because whether I agree or not with what the governor said, I think he has the legal right to do that, and I think the courts have determined that,” Dicterow said in reaction to the protest. “He created a path for us to go forward. He said to submit a plan, so we submitted a plan, and we’re waiting to see how the governor will react. I’m hopeful and optimistic that our plan will meet with his approval, and we’ll be able to open the beaches.”

Huntington Beach police began closing the city’s beaches in the morning, said spokeswoman Angela Bennett.

A motorcycle officer was seen redirecting cyclists off the beach path toward the sidewalk. The beaches and water were eventually cleared in their entirety.

“We worked in conjunction with marine safety, who were the lifeguards out in the water who were working to get people in from the water,” Bennett said. “It’s completely clear.”

Bennett noted that gathering protesters had been compliant, adding that no citations had been handed out.

“We want to make sure that people are considering public health in following the orders that have been in place since March, but we also want to ensure that people have the right to express themselves, as well, from the Constitution,” Bennett said. “We are not having any issues with people, or if we do have issues, we educate them, we ask them to voluntarily comply, and they have done that.”

Some protesters hold flags and signs up at the entrance to the pier in Huntington Beach on Saturday.
Some protesters hold flags and signs up at the entrance to the pier in Huntington Beach on Saturday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Dozens of people demonstrated in front of the pier late in the morning. Protesters held up signs that included, “Expose the Deep State,” “Take off your mask,” and a surfboard that had the words “Gavin Don’t Surf” written on it.

Steve Hubbell, 58, of Huntington Beach brought the message-bearing surfboard. He said he felt no animosity toward law enforcement that acted to close the beach on Saturday morning, saying that they were just doing their jobs.

The lifelong surfer did feel targeted, however, by Newsom’s directive to close Orange County’s beaches, and he suggested that bias factored into the governor’s decision-making.

“The rest of the beaches are closed from the other municipalities, … but this municipality chose not to close their beaches, so I think he is targeting us a little bit,” Hubbell said.

Louis Herrera, 32, of Santa Ana, showed up to Huntington Beach with a megaphone, demanding that the state be reopened again. He said he planned to show up to the protest that took place later at Laguna Beach, too.

“We need to open California,” Herrera said. “We need to open up our beaches. We’re tired of bowing down to a governor that is trying to do executive orders after executive orders, locking us down for even longer than it should be done.

“If you’re sick, stay at home. If you’re not, we need to go back to work. We need to get back to work. I lost my livelihood. I’m close to … becoming homeless again, on the street.”

Herrera said he has lost his job as a karate instructor.

James, 58, of Huntington Beach said that his wife has a hair salon and has been out of business for a month and a half. While he understood that his wife’s line of work was not ideal for social distancing, he feels that things have gone too far in shutting down the beaches and telling people to stay home.

“It ain’t that bad,” he said of the coronavirus, adding that this was the first time he had ever taken to the streets as a protester. “It’s nasty. I sympathize with anybody who’s lost a loved one, but [the stay-at-home order is] not worth crushing this economy beyond recovery. It’s just not worth it.”

Few people were seen on the city beach in Huntington Beach on Saturday.
Few people were seen on the city beach in Huntington Beach on Saturday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

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