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Huntington Beach protests continue into second weekend of purple-tiered curfew

Protesters gather in front of the Huntington Beach Pier Saturday to protest a nearly statewide nighttime curfew.
Protesters gather in front of the Huntington Beach Pier Saturday night to protest a nearly statewide nighttime curfew aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

As the coronavirus case count continues to climb, restrictions have been tightening to slow the spread of the virus during the most recent surge.

Orange County was among the counties that saw its reopening scaled back on Nov. 16. That was when the state put the county and 27 others back into the purple tier, taking the number of counties in the most restrictive tier to 41.

Subsequently, a curfew was placed on most nonessential activities outside the home the same week.

Protesters on the first weekend rallied against the month-long measure, to be imposed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily until at least Dec. 21. Those demonstrations appeared set to move forward. An organization called the American Phoenix Project had social media fliers promoting “curfew breaker” events from Redding to San Diego scheduled for Saturday night.

A pro-Trump protester wears a sign stating "I would rather get COVID-19 than Biden 20."
A pro-Trump protester wears a sign stating “I would rather get COVID-19 than Biden 20" at the Huntington Beach Pier.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

For the second weekend since the curfew was implemented, protesters railed against the stay-at-home protocol near the Huntington Beach Pier. A significant number of attendees had arrived an hour before the curfew began.

Alan Hostetter, the founder of American Phoenix Project, said that the group began protesting on Easter Sunday. He said that he does not deny that the virus exists, but he added that he feels the numbers have been inflated as part of a political power play.

Hostetter also said that the people have “been propagandized now for nine months,” and said he believes the fallout from virus-related shutdowns will be devastating.

Satina Gulati, 42, of Mission Viejo said that she is protesting, in part, to support small business owners.

“These people are suffering,” Gulati said. “These people have lost everything that they’ve worked their entire lives to create. Their American Dream is being shattered because of this, and it’s so unfortunate.”

Ansel Greene, 18, of Topanga said Saturday afternoon that he planned to join the curfew protest in Huntington Beach. He said he felt that exercising a curfew goes too far as it relates to government control.

Huntington Beach police officers let a man selling T-shirts know he cannot set up in this spot.
Huntington Beach police officers let a man selling T-shirts know he cannot set up in this spot at the Huntington Beach Pier.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

For much of the year, demonstrators have spoken of constitutional freedoms, including those of the right to assembly and freedom of expression. Greene said he wants to hear both sides of an issue, but he also feels a person should be entitled to their own viewpoint.

“I even have family members … that think the complete opposite [as] me, but I love to hear the other side and be able to have my own opinion,” Greene said. “That’s honestly what makes this country great is that we can all have [different] opinions.”

Huntington Beach’s Pier Plaza has seen countless demonstrations during the past several months. Virus-related shutdowns and beach closures, Black Lives Matter, and the general election are some of the subjects that have drawn a crowd.

In terms of enforcement, many local law enforcement agencies, including the Huntington Beach Police Department, said that they intended to take an education-first approach regarding the curfew.

Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta said that the city and its police department are encouraging people to follow state-issued mandates such as the wearing of masks, social distancing and the curfew.

“What the public may not realize is that our public safety departments must staff the events in case someone chooses to engage in violence,” Semeta said in an email. “It becomes the job of a city and its public safety departments to keep people safe when a rally or demonstration is held in that city. So my request to anyone who comes to the protest is to please cooperate with our police. Don’t make their jobs harder.”

Huntington Beach, a city with a population of roughly 200,000 people, has experienced 89 deaths due to the coronavirus and had 3,302 total cases to date, per data provided by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

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