America First! group plans to rally Sunday in Laguna


A group called America First! plans to gather Sunday evening at Laguna’s Main Beach to rally for victims of crimes that organizers say have been committed by immigrants illegally living in the United States, according to a Facebook post.

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and be the fourth time in the past year the group has met in Laguna, said Laguna Beach police Sgt. Jim Cota , who worked the last rally on July 30.

About 100 people gathered on that date, with supporters calling for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, according to a YouTube video of the rally.

In that video, one demonstrator shouted “Make America great again” before pulling a rubber mask of President Trump over his face.

“We’re out here to remind this community that their cheap labor and their cheap voting bloc they are importing into this country has real effects in terms of the kids who die in DUI accidents, and the murders and the gang crimes and all that stuff,” organizer Johnny Benitez said in the video.

Karly Berube, a 20-year-old Aliso Viejo resident, is planning a counter-protest in response to America First!

“I feel it’s important we don’t let hate spread farther in our cities,” Berube said. “If you see evil happen on the streets and don’t do anything about it, it almost deems it OK to act that way.”

Cota said the previous three America First! events yielded no arrests. “We’ll be there with plenty of staff to make sure everything goes OK,” he said.

Cota added that the group members did not need a permit to demonstrate on public property because they are exercising their First Amendment right of free speech.

Sunday’s event comes on the heels of last weekend’s violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators and led to three deaths, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Cota said America First! is not affiliated with groups involved in Charlottesville.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce


3:45 p.m. Aug. 15: This article was updated with Karly Berube’s comments.

This article was originally published at 3:40 p.m. Aug. 14.