Cops in tense stand-off with protesters demanding California beaches be reopened

Thousands of anti-lockdown protesters stood off with mounted police Friday as they assembled on the boardwalk at Huntington Beach angered by California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order to close the beaches and called for an end to the coronavirus shutdown.

Gov. Newsom acted to close state and local beaches in Orange County to residents from Friday morning after ‘disturbing’ images showed thousands flocking to the sands last weekend – ignoring the state’s stay-at-home order.

The rally was one of many held in at least 10 states across the US on Friday in anger over the extended lockdowns.

Thousands in cities including New York City, LA, Chicago, Raleigh, Columbus gathered at city halls and state houses to demand freedom after weeks of being forced to stay home.

The closure announcement triggered criticism in Huntington Beach, in particular, as between 2,500 and 3,000 people gathered a block from the beach Friday to voice their anger, ABC News reported.

Sheriff Don Barnes of Orange County said his department would not actively seek to arrest people on beaches, according to the Los Angeles Times, as protesters were seen being pushed back by a line of police on horses..

Many who have been stuck inside for weeks criticized Newsom for policing the population and mocked him for trying to be an ‘all-powerful’ leader as police on horseback kept the crowds in line.

The crowds ignored social distancing guidelines and failed to wear masks. Most were seen carrying American flags as they led raucous chants in a much larger protest than the one gathered in the same area two weeks before.

Huntington Beach council announced Thursday night it had voted to sue the governor for closing the beach.

‘This is Surf City. Our identity is very much tied up in our beaches,’ Mayor Lyn Semeta said.

‘Constitutionally I really feel it’s not something legally the governor should be doing.

‘Governor Newsom’s mandate to close all beaches in Orange County today was a jarring decision that significantly impacts us here in Huntington Beach,’ she added in a statement.

‘Given that Orange County has among the lowest per-capita COVID-19 death rates in California, the action by the state prioritizes politics over data, in direct contradiction of the Governor’s stated goal to allow science and facts to guide our response to this horrible global pandemic.’

Gov. Newsom continued to urge people to stay at home during his press conference Friday despite the criticism, adding that the ‘only thing that is assured to advance the spread of the virus is thousands of people congregating together, not practicing social distancing or physical distancing’.

‘If we can avoid that, then we’re going to get to the other side of this with modifications a lot quicker,’ he said. ‘And I just hope people will consider that.’

Police in Huntington Beach told the Los Angeles Times that they were emphasizing voluntary compliance with the beach closure.

‘We’ll see what happens over the course of this weekend and, look, if we have the kind of weekend that I hope and expect we will where we don’t see those huge crowds descend, then we’re going to be in a position — as early as Monday, Tuesday, I hope — to make some announcements of new strategies and partnerships that we’re working on in real time to address these large crowds,’ Newsom said of the closures.

FOUR STAGES TO REOPENING CALIFORNIA:

Stage one: Safety and Preparedness

Staying home and flattening the curve. Building out testing, PPE, and hospital capacity. Making essential workplaces as safe as possible. Preparing sector-by-sector guidelines for a safe re-opening.

Stage two: Lower Risk Workplaces

Gradually re-opening some lower risk workplaces with adaptations.

This will include: Retail (e.g. curbside pickup), manufacturing, offices (when telework not possible)  and more public spaces

Stage three: Higher Risk Workplaces

Gradually re-opening some higher risk environments with adaptations and limits on size of gatherings.

This will include: Personal care (hair salons, nail salons, gyms), movie theaters, sports without live audiences and in-person religious services

Stage four: End of Stay-At-Home Order

Re-opening the highest risk parts of our economy once therapeutics have been developed.

This will include mass gatherings such as: Concerts, convention centers  and live audience sports.