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The action in Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles, was similar to others staged this week in Michigan, Ohio and other locations as Americans seek a return to a more normal life after more than a month of mitigation measures intended to slow the spread of the virus, also known as COVID-19.
As in the other locations, demonstrators in Huntington Beach alleged that state-government-imposed restrictions, intended as safeguards, were becoming an infringement on their personal freedoms.
Placards held by protesters Friday held messages such as “Defy Fascist Lockdown,” “Stop the Tyranny, Open California,” and “We Deem Our Governor Non Essential.”
“I don’t think there’s any reason for us to be on lockdown now,” Paula Doyle, 62, of Costa Mesa told the Los Angeles Times. “We didn’t have any dangers. We have no danger in our hospitals now of overflowing.”
“I don’t think there’s any reason for us to be on lockdown now. We didn’t have any dangers. We have no danger in our hospitals now of overflowing.”
Earlier in the week, three Southern California churches filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom, accusing the Democrat of “criminalizing church attendance” with orders limiting social gatherings.
Newsom, 52, a former mayor of San Francisco who became governor in January 2019, issued his stay-at-home order March 19, becoming one of the first governors to do so. The move has been credited with helping the nation’s most populous state keep its infection and fatality numbers relatively low considering its population of some 39.5 million people.
He said Tuesday he foresees a loosening of the state’s stay-at-home orders but did not provide a specific date.
The governor said at a news conference that the public’s adherence to his orders had “bent the curve” on the number of infections in the state, suggesting the limits could end in the near future.
“The models have changed because of your behavior,” Newsom said. “This will not be a permanent state.”
But protesters in Huntington Beach – and oceanfront city of about 200,000 residents – expressed frustration with the governor’s limits during Friday’s demonstration.
“It’s not dangerous out here. It’s not,” Benny White, 33, of Compton, told the L.A. Times. “I’ve seen plenty of people out here. The beaches are open. It’s a nice, beautiful day. What are we doing? Stop being a germophobe.”
The protest was organized largely via social media and began around 1 p.m. local time, the Orange County Register reported. Police asked the crowd to break up around 3:30 p.m., the report said.
As of late Friday, California had more than 29,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and had recorded just over 1,000 deaths.
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this story.