In defiance of physical distancing guidelines, hundreds gathered in San Clemente Sunday to protest the state’s stay-at-home orders meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Most without facial coverings and some bringing small children along, the protestors donned red, white and blue and carried flags and signs calling for an end to the orders that have shuttered business and kept Californians indoors amid the deadly pandemic.
Video showed protestors holding up signs that read, “My Body My Risk My Choice,” “Everyone is Essential,” “No Liberty No Life Reopen California,” “Our Freedom Is Not Yours to Take” and “The Media Is the Virus.”
The demonstrators gathered at the Pier Bowl parking lot around 12 p.m. and marched to Avenida Del Mar.
Several wore Make America Great Again hats, supporting President Donald Trump who earlier this week told his supporters to “LIBERATE” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia, apparently encouraging protests that have popped up around the country to shun governors’ mandates to fight COVID-19.
Orange County had a total of 1,636 coronavirus cases Sunday, including 32 deaths. Huntington Beach had reported 136 cases, among the highest in the county, and San Clemente reported 43 known cases.
Carrie Braun, spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, said deputies were present at the rally mainly to remind people to keep off the streets. The department estimates some 200 protestors were participating in the rally.
No arrests were made and no one was cited as of 4 p.m., according to Braun.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday told protestors to practice physical distancing to stop from spreading the coronavirus, which had sickened 28,963 statewide and led to the deaths of 1,072 people as of Saturday.
“When you practice your free speech, which I don’t [just] embrace, I celebrate— just do so safely,” he said during a news conference.
The governor said the decision to reopen the state would be based on “facts on the ground” and not politics or protest.
“This virus knows no political ideology. It doesn’t know if you’re a Republican or Democrat, supporting the president, opposing the president,” Newsom said. “Practice physical distancing. Make sure that you’re not infecting others. Even if you feel healthy, you have no symptoms, you’re asymptomatic. You can spread this.”
Health experts and public health officials throughout the state and around the country have stressed that lifting stay-at-home orders too soon might result in a surge in infections.