SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds gathered at the State Capitol building Friday even though the California Highway Patrol barred protests there because of a lack of social distancing by participants in a previous rally.
Early in the afternoon, several protesters were detained as officers worked to move the crowd off the west steps and back onto the sidewalk.
Demonstrators decried Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order as a violation of their rights. Some believed the coronavirus was not the threat it is made out to be by health officials.
“I have a different opinion on that. I believe if it was really a huge argument, they would have done this when Ebola came out because I think that’s a much more horrible, horrible disease,” Jeannie Favela, who came to the protest from Butte County, told FOX40.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “eleven people were treated for Ebola in the United States during the 2014-2016 epidemic.”
A “hard close” order took effect on Friday from wealthy Newport Beach to artsy Laguna Beach and down Doheny way. Compliance was another matter, however.
It was a typical morning in Huntington Beach as surfers toted boards across the city’s beach and bobbed in waves offshore. Other people strolled, walked dogs, biked and jogged; most were not wearing masks.
Beach parking lots were closed and authorities were expected to patrol the beach. They planned to educate and seek voluntary compliance, but if necessary issue citations.
At Huntington State Beach, park officers told passers-by about the closure. Yellow tape blocked off a parking lot.
The Orange County beach closures came after tens of thousands of people hit the sands last weekend. Newsom scolded people for defying the spirit of his statewide stay-at-home order, designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has killed some 2,000 people in the state.
“People that are congregating there, that weren’t practicing physical distancing … may not even know that they contracted the disease and now they put other people at risk,” Newsom said.
Newsom, a Democrat, has engendered strong bipartisan support for most of his actions during the outbreak. His beach order was condemned as punitive, political overreach by some Republican lawmakers, especially those in Orange County, where the GOP hopes to regain ground lost to Democrats in what was once a Republican stronghold.
“At a time when California is granting early release to high-risk sex offenders and other dangerous inmates due to COVID-19 concerns, the implicit threat to punish beachgoers and surfers who violate the order is absurd,” said Republican state Sen. Patricia Bates.
Orange County is home to more than 3 million people. The county’s Health Care Agency on Thursday reported an additional 145 cases, bringing the total to around 2,400 with 45 deaths.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said he would focus on cautioning and educating people that they must practice social distancing rather than citing them for violating the state order.
“I have no desire to enforce any aspect of that through arrest,” he said.
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