Hundreds of people from across San Diego County gathered Sunday in Encinitas along Highway 101 to protest the closure of public spaces due to COVID-19. Local law enforcement was on standby but did not attempt to break up the crowds despite social-distancing orders still in place. The demonstrators expressed outrage and frustrations with Governor Gavin Newsom and local city officials who they said are trampling on their civil liberties through the closures of public amenities and stay-at-home orders.
The protestors first paraded in front of the Swamis Beach for an hour, cheering on passersby in their vehicles who honked their horns and waved American flags out their windows. As the crowd grew, they advanced a mile and a half east to Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear’s home. A Facebook Group, Free Encinitas was published by city resident and community organizer Crista Ann Curtis on Thursday. Curtis said she was shocked to see so many people attend the rally called, “You have to fight for your rights to ride, surf, and walk the beaches.”
“It is really is encouraging to know there are so many advocates for true freedom in the city and the surrounding communities,” said Curtis. “I read the people’s signs on some of the houses that say beaches aren’t essentials, but our freedom is. Today is about when a government makes decisions like this that override our freedoms. There was no reason for our mayor to close the rail trail.“
Mayor Catherine Blakespear announced the closure of The Coastal Rail Trail and South Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas April 15. The decision to close pedestrian access was explained by city officials in an online press release that stated it was in response to the County of San Diego and the state’s physical distance orders during the COVID-19 shutdown.
In direct defiance of the city’s orders, the crowd of protesters marched for over two hours waving American flags and playing patriotic music. People walked carrying signs on surfboards that read, “Re-open Encinitas,” “Your fear doesn’t remove my rights” and “The measures don’t add up.”
Once in front of the mayor’s home, the diverse crowd that included parents with their children, college students and grandparents shouted, “Vote her out,” and “Open our beaches” with the song, “We aren’t going to take it” by Twisted Sister playing in the background.
Blakespear was seen looking through her glass front door at the crowd but she did not step outside or engage with the protestors.
“Millions of people have been let go of their jobs. We need the beach and trails to stay sane,” said a mother named Renee who only wanted to give her first name. Renee brought her husband and children from Vista to support Encinitas, “I don’t think the numbers we are seeing with this virus warrant the closing of the beach and trails,” said Renee.
Tyler, a father of two from Pacific Beach, brought his two daughters, 8 and 10, to the march to teach them about the Bill of Rights. “We need to teach them early,” Tyler said. “Too many parents don’t teach their kids what we have for freedom. Their kids turn into adults who flip us off fighting for our rights.”
Brian McDonald, an Encinitas resident, was wearing a t-shirt that read, “Freedom Warrior.” McDonald grew up in South Africa and said his home country has also lost similar freedoms, “I am a beach kid. I grew up with sand in my teeth. It makes no sense to be stuck inside. We need to be outside in the fresh air.“
Protests like the one in Encinitas are popping up all over Southern California.
Close to a thousand people attended another freedom rally Sunday in San Clemente.
On Saturday, a few hundred people gathered in downtown San Diego demanding businesses be allowed to reopen.
Huntington Beach marched on Friday to fight for their civil liberties.
While the crowd wove through the winding streets to the mayor’s house, conversations included: small business owners discussing how they could reopen despite the shutdown orders, a group of women said they never felt the need for a gun in their home until now, and parents shared stories with each other about antsy children who want to go out and play.
San Diego Sheriff deputies patrolled the crowd in Encinitas and in downtown San Diego. The deputies did not issue citations at either rally. Many people in Encinitas waved and showed their support to the officers despite dozens of residents receiving citations a few weeks ago for watching the sunset in their vehicles. The California Globe was told by deputies the difference between those ticketed and the weekend rallies were those ticketed parked in locations closed to the public.
Curtis said the Encinitas group she helped organize will give Blakespear until Monday to respond to Sunday’s rally. “We will march again if we have to,” said Curtis.