Huntington Beach in Orange County, California, was packed on Friday — and not with sun-bathers. The beach was officially closed last weekend after crowds packed the sand, but some local residents think that things have gone too far. They were called for the state to be completely reopened in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.
A massive crowd of between 2,500 and 3,000 people packed the sidewalks around Huntington Beach on Friday, according to a report by The OC Register. The protesters began to show up shortly before noon, and most were not wearing face masks. The crowd chanted "U.S.A." intermittently, and many held signs with slogans like "all jobs are essential," and "my freedom is essential," and "[California Gov. Gavin] Newsom is not essential." Huntington Beach police Chief Robert Handy said that even without a pandemic to consider, a crowd of that size would have been a big police concern.
Big crowds gather on the corner of Main and PCH in #HuntingtonBeach to protest #coronavirus closures. @ocregister #virus #covid19 #fullyopenca #wehaveroghts #orangecounty #gavinnewsom pic.twitter.com/pv8o4jsJGZ— Jeff Gritchen 🇺🇸 (@jeffgritchen) May 1, 2020
Protesters reportedly paraded cares flying American flags through the nearby streets, and the crowds spilled as far out as the Pacific Coast Highway. The nearby roadways saw some serious gridlock, but despite all the disruptions, Handy said that no citations or arrests were made. However, any who stepped out onto the closed beach were asked to leave.
Many protesters told reporters that they wanted the protest to be seen as nonpartisan, however, the crowds were dotted with Trump campaign signs. The White House has officially advised Americans to practice social distancing for several more weeks, but the president has publicly stated his support for protesters.
Demonstrators said that their biggest frustration was with Newsom, who ordered Orange County beaches closed last weekend after they were crowded with revellers. Newsom's stay-at-home order for the state had previously left local governments to decide on how strictly their public beaches were closed, but after Orange County continued business as usual, the public health threat became too great.
Local residents argue that the area has a strong tourism economy, and therefore needs the help of beach revenue to sustain itself. One protester told the Register: the beaches are as much an essential business as liquor stores."0comments
Public health officials say that social distancing will need to go on for a good deal longer to reduce the threat the coronavirus poses to the medical infrastructure of the U.S. as a whole. This will mitigate tragedies like the ones being experienced in New York City, where the sheer volume of human remains is overwhelming the funerary industry of the city, and forcing drastic measures like mass burials in potters' fields.