Costa Mesa protests continue as crowd gathers at OC Fairgrounds under watchful eye of police

Samantha Hernandez, 14, chants during a a peaceful demonstration near the OC Fair and Event Center on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Demonstrations in Costa Mesa continued Tuesday — less than 12 hours after officials lifted a citywide curfew implemented, in part, out of fear of potential rioting and looting at South Coast Plaza Monday — as protesters convened at OC Fairgrounds calling for social justice.

A group of about 200 people, most of them young, peacefully assembled across from Costa Mesa City Hall and the city’s police department before proceeding past Orange Coast College and toward the 405 Freeway.

But while some protesters in nearby Los Angeles took their message out onto the freeways Tuesday, temporarily blocking traffic, the Costa Mesa demonstrators walked along Fairview Road as far as Baker Street before turning back.

The rally was one of several grassroots events organized throughout Orange County in affiliation with Black Lives Matter, a group that’s played a central role in responding to the May 25 death of unarmed black man George Floyd, who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police.

Protesters kneel for nine minutes, the amount of time Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck.
Protesters kneel in silence for nine minutes, the same amount of time Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck, during a peaceful demonstration near the OC Fair and Event Center on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Along the procession route, participants carried signs reading “No justice, no peace” and “I can’t breathe,” the latter among the last words Floyd spoke as he lay pinned to the street by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

Chauvin was arrested May 29 on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Tuesday’s Costa Mesa protest followed on the heels of another demonstration Monday night at South Coast Plaza, an event heralded on some social media accounts as an opportunity for looters and rioters to do some damage.

An hours-long standoff between protesters and police took place Monday night at South Coast Plaza, with demonstrators asking police to “take a knee.”

Fearing the potential negative impacts riots could have on area businesses and public safety, Costa Mesa City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison called a citywide curfew Sunday, from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., during which residents were not to be out in public except for essential work, emergencies and church services.

On Monday afternoon, a second curfew was issued from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., just one hour before the South Coast Plaza protest was to begin. Although tensions rose as demonstrators faced off against law enforcement, the evening eventually ended with only one arrest.

Protesters walk along Fairview Rd. as a Costa Mesa police officer patrols the street on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

“I was pleased with the whole situation, given what we were anticipating,” Mayor Katrina Foley said Tuesday morning.

“We’ve tried to approach the protests in a balanced way, making sure we have space for people to express their frustration and sorrow and concerns about social justice while, at the same time, preventing criminal acts happening in other cities from happening in our city,” she continued.

City officials confirmed Tuesday the curfew would not be carried over to a third night, and that the police department would continue to monitor activity throughout the city.

Newport Beach is set to see four protests Wednesday as the nationwide movement continues in response to police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Police spokeswoman Roxi Fyad said Tuesday the department was aware of the potential for assembly at the OC Fairgrounds and would be keeping watch on the area.

“We are aware of the peaceful demonstration going on now on Fair Drive in front of the police station,” the department said in a 5 p.m. tweet. “We support the public’s right to peaceably assemble and hold nonviolent demonstrations.”

Although a modest law enforcement presence was seen at the protest, no clashes or conflicts were reported.

Costa Mesa Police Department motor officers line up across the street from protesters on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.