MANHATTAN BEACH (CBSLA) — A mother is speaking out after being fined $1,000 for taking her children to a park that was off-limits due to the coronavirus pandemic. She was later told she would have to pay the fine plus a $1,500 deposit to fight it.
Hawthorne resident Samantha Harte and her two young children were issued a citation on April 4 for being at Pollywog Park in Manhattan Beach.
“I actually started crying at the park because it was one of those moments where I was experiencing America in such a different way,” said Harte.
At the time, the park was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Police confirmed signs were posted at the time of the citation.
Harte said she knew the playground was off-limits because it was clearly roped off.
“To enter into the park there was no barricade that I snuck under or any rope that I climbed over,” said Harte.
She said there were two police cars parked on the grass, but the officers didn’t approach her for about a half-hour.
“They said we have been giving out warnings and people aren’t listening and we are now giving citations,” said Harte.
There was no dollar amount on the citation but weeks later, Harte received a letter in the mail from a private law firm on behalf of the city.
According to the letter, if she wanted to fight the ticket, she had to send in a written appeal as well as the $1,000 fine and a $1,500 deposit.
“The place where it becomes really difficult, regardless of what side of the issue you are on, is how during these times can anyone be asked to give such a large deposit just to voice, to a group of people, what happened that day,” Harte asked.
Manhattan Beach made national headlines last month for issuing a similar $1,000 ticket to a surfer who refused to leave the closed beach. Officers said he ignored multiple warnings.
Harte said she didn’t argue with officers, or resist the citation.
“In no way, shape, or form was I at that playground to grind my heels in and to make a statement,” said Harte.
A spokesperson for the Manhattan Beach Police Department said he was surprised to learn Harte was issued the full amount, but the decision is ultimately up to the City Attorney.
The office for the City Attorney did not immediately respond for comment.
Pollywog Park has since reopened.