SAN CLEMENTE (CBSLA) – Eight people were arrested during a protest Thursday morning in San Clemente against California’s coronavirus stay-at-home order.
An estimated 200 people took part in the protest, which began around 9 a.m. near the San Clemente Pier and was organized by the group “Reopen California.”
An Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson told CBSLA that four people were initially arrested after they appeared to have trespassed onto a fenced off parking lot and committed vandalism by removing the fence and signage of the parking lot.
“Unfortunately, despite numerous warnings prior to the event, some individuals chose to commit unlawful activity,” the sheriff’s department said in a statement. The charges for those arrested include failure to disperse, trespassing, and resisting arrest.
Early Thursday morning, prior to the demonstration, O.C. Sheriff Don Barnes tweeted that he had learned some of the demonstrators intended to be arrested.
“It has come to my attention that individuals protesting in San Clemente this morning have the intention of committing unlawful acts with the intent of being arrested,” he wrote. “We always have and always will protect First Amendment rights.”
A little before 11 a.m., deputies told the remaining protesters that they were now part of an “unlawful assembly,” and if they did not disperse, they could be subject to arrests. After several warnings, even more people were taken into custody.
This is the latest in a series of demonstrations in Orange County over the past month against the lockdown orders. The protesters argue that the significant job losses brought on by the pandemic and ensuing stay-at-home orders should spur city, county and state leaders to reopen.
California is currently in phase two of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-phase reopening plan. Nearly all retailers and restaurants have been allowed to reopen for curbside pickup. In L.A. pet grooming businesses and car washes were also allowed to reopen this week. Beaches, golf courses and trails have reopened.
Hair and nail salons, however, remain closed, and have petitioned officials to allow them to reopen. They fall under stage three of Newsom’s plan, which also includes gyms, movie theaters and sporting venues without fans.