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One day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Orange County beaches closed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, hundreds of protesters flooded the city of Huntington Beach to demonstrate against the action.
Holding signs with slogans such as, “Open Cali Now,” “All Jobs are Essential” and “Surfing Not a Crime/Newsom is a Kook,” as they took to the street, the protesters — many without face masks and not practicing social distancing — backed up traffic along the Pacific Coast Highway for at least a mile.
Police on horseback worked to push the crowd out of the road, FOX 11 of Los Angeles reported.
The protest followed a similar one in the city two weekends ago, when demonstrators called for a reopening of the state’s economy after a month under Newsom’s stay-at-home order.
Many participating Friday were with the group Fully Reopen CA Now, according to FOX 11.
“We cannot survive two, three months on this timeline with this amount of businesses shut down and, quite frankly, the data at this point doesn’t support it,” group member Vivienne Reiten told the station.
“We cannot survive two, three months on this timeline with this amount of businesses shut down and, quite frankly, the data at this point doesn’t support it.”
Newsom called for the beaches to be closed after learning an estimated 80,000 people showed up to nearby Newport Beach during a heatwave last Friday and Saturday. Many had traveled to Orange County beaches because those in neighboring Los Angeles and San Diego counties had been closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“You didn’t see those images at L.A. beaches and San Diego beaches and [in] Northern California,” Newsom said Monday of the Newport Beach crowds, “because we had strong guidelines that were not only adopted but were abided by,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
On Tuesday, the Newport Beach City Council voted 5-2 against a measure that would temporarily close the beach, but Newsom’s latest order overrides that vote.
On Friday a judge refused a Huntington Beach request for an injunction against the beach closure.
Newsom said Friday he sympathizes with the protesters but warned 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,” according to The Times.
Some beachgoers defied Newsom’s order Friday, but Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said his department doesn’t plan to make arrests in his jurisdiction — which also includes Dana Point and San Clemente — and will instead focus on voluntary compliance and education regarding to the governor’s order.
Officials in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach echoed Barnes’ sentiments, according to The Times.
“As long as people are social distancing and doing what they’re expected to do, the sheriff does not have interest in criminalizing people enjoying the beach,” sheriff’s office spokeswoman Carrie Braun said.
Newsom said he hoped to see better compliance with his order in the days ahead.
“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.”
There were also about a dozen other rallies across the state, including in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.