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Group calls for social distancing during counter-protest in Huntington Beach

The Grim Reaper, also known as Spencer Kelly from Huntington Beach, holds a sign at Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach on Friday. The three-person protest was put on by Indivisible OC 48.
The Grim Reaper, also known as Spencer Kelly from Huntington Beach, holds a sign at Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach on Friday. The three-person protest was put on by Indivisible OC 48.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

For the second straight Friday, a protest was held near the Huntington Beach Pier.

This one was far smaller in scope than the stay-at-home protest last week that brought at least 2,500 protesters to Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach. And that was part of the point, event organizer Aaron McCall of Costa Mesa said.

McCall said the three-person counter-protest in Pier Plaza, put on by the left-leaning group Indivisible OC 48, was put together to bring attention to all of the people who are following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home orders during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Spencer Kelly of Huntington Beach wore a Grim Reaper costume, holding a scythe and a sign that read, “Brought to you by the OC Board of Supervisors.” On the other side, it read, “Stay home, wear masks, save lives.”

Jody Kyle of Huntington Beach displayed various other tombstone-shaped signs, holding one that facetiously said, “My rights are more important than your life.”

Other signs read, “My son went to the protest but I got COVID-19,” and, “I thought COVID-19 was a hoax.”

Tomas, right, who declined to give his last name, takes a selfie with the Grim Reaper, also known as Spencer Kelly from Huntington Beach, on Friday.
Tomas, right, who declined to give his last name, takes a selfie with the Grim Reaper, also known as Spencer Kelly from Huntington Beach, on Friday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

“We just want to urge our Orange County leaders to prioritize testing, make sure that people are wearing [personal protective equipment] and social distancing,” McCall said. “At times, they’ve seemed like they were going to go against the governor. They left a lot of ambiguity open, as to what was supposed to happen ... The Orange County Board of Supervisors is jeopardizing the lives and safety of families and Orange County businesses with their unclear guidance.”

The protest Friday morning lasted just an hour. Most who passed by did not engage with the protesters, though some stopped to take pictures.

“We want to stay home, stay safe and not be out here,” Kelly said. “The local and national news is just consumed with people protesting their rights. I don’t even know what those rights are that they’re protesting for. Clearly, nothing is preventing them from showing up.

“We are staging a small protest to speak up and say, the death count is still rising, the case count is still rising. How does it make sense to open Orange County and the beaches?”

Friday marked the start of Phase 2 of California reopening, as directed by Newsom. Businesses such as bookstores, music stores, toy stores, florists, sporting goods stores and clothing stores were allowed to reopen for curbside delivery.

With California entering Stage 2 of reopening, toy stores, florists, bookstores, music stores, clothing shops and sporting goods stores, among other lower-risk businesses, can reopen for curbside pickup.

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said in a phone interview Friday that he believed that the counter-protesters were “right that we ought to protect ourselves, and wrong that we need to keep in place all of the draconian shutdown orders that are right now governing us.”

Wagner, a Republican who represents District 3 and is the former mayor of Irvine, said it was Newsom who has been inconsistent with his directives closing and reopening Orange County beaches over the last couple of weeks. He added that he thought the reopening guidelines that were released Thursday “contain absolutely ridiculous targets and metrics that certainly no urban county can meet.”

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Indivisible OC 48 counter-protest in Huntington Beach

“The only consistency those counter-protesters have is they want us to follow the governor,” Wagner said. “They don’t want us to do what we think is best for the people of Orange County ... I do believe that the local leadership in any particular county is better positioned than Sacramento to know the reality on the ground. I’ve got to tell you, what works or doesn’t work in Modoc County is different than what works or doesn’t work in Los Angeles County, is different than what works or doesn’t work in Orange County.”

McCall called for increased testing in the county. According to updated numbers released Friday by the Orange County Health Care Agency, there have been 46,372 COVID-19 tests in the county to date. Orange County has more than 3.2 million people.

“The numbers are rising,” McCall said. “We don’t have a complete understanding of all of the cases. We just have to make sure that we’re careful, everyone’s safe, that they’re social distancing and wearing masks. That’s why we’re here, to bring attention to the fact that there are people who do agree with the governor. They’re just at home.”

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