A large crowd gathered Friday in Huntington Beach, California, to protest the governor’s order to close all beaches in Orange County to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Between 2,500 and 3,000 people took part in the beach closure protest, according to Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy.
Enforcement of the closure was light because officers did not have enough signage to affect a full closure when the order went into effect Friday morning, Handy said.
The large crowd was packed near the popular Huntington Beach Pier. Most of them didn’t have masks, despite recommendations from public health officials that people must wear masks and socially distance in public.
The target of their ire, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, urged the protesters to take care of themselves by wearing face coverings and employing physical distancing.
“This disease doesn’t know if you’re a protester, a Democrat, a Republican,” the governor said at a press conference Friday. “Protect yourself, protect your family, your kids, your parents, your grandparents, your neighbors.”
Protesters label Newsom a ‘traitor’
Some of the demonstrators were seen waving American flags and carrying Trump 2020 signs and posters disparaging Newsom following his order Thursday to close all Orange County beaches.
Some of the signs labeled Newsom a “terrorist” and “traitor,” while protesters with bullhorns were heard shouting messages supporting President Trump’s reelection.
While the crowd remained peaceful, dozens of law enforcement officers patrolled the event, including SWAT teams in tactical gear and police helicopters overhead.
Out of sight from protesters, riot patrol officers on horseback were ready, with one officer telling CNN they were there “just in case.”
While the beach is technically closed, officers did not appear to be enforcing the governor’s closure order.
One protester walked past a line of officers blocking access to the beach and asked police officers if he was breaking the law.
The officer responded, “Yes, you are technically entering an unauthorized area,” but did not stop the protester as he proceeded past the line of officers and to the ocean.
Newsom told protesters he appreciated their point of view. “But we’re interested in evidence, and the evidence shows some good things, but some yellow flags of caution,” he said.