Deputies arrested eight demonstrators Thursday at a rally in San Clemente to protest COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, including a retired Orange County police chief who organized the rally, according to officials and published reports.
The protest began at about 9 a.m. and drew an estimated 200 people to the beach city’s pier area, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“The vast majority of demonstrators peacefully exercised their First Amendment rights,” the department said in a written statement.
“Unfortunately, despite numerous warnings prior to the event, some individuals chose to commit unlawful activity,” the statement said. “Eight people were arrested.”
Four of those arrested were booked on suspicion of trespassing, and another three were booked on suspicion of failing to disperse, officials said.
But one of those arrested, identified as 55-year-old Alan Shane Hostetter of San Clemente, was accused of inciting a riot, destruction of city property, trespassing and resisting arrest, according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
Hostetter organized the protest and is a former chief of the La Habra Police Department, the Orange County Register reported. He took a disability retirement from the department in 2010 after eight months as the city’s top law enforcement officer.
Hostetter was taken into custody while attempting to dismantle fencing and refusing orders to stop, according to the Register.
He has organized three similar rallies in the past, the newspaper reported.
“We always have and always will protect First Amendment rights,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said in a written statement. “That does not entitle individuals to commit other violations of law. We appreciate the support we have received from the community as we defend the rights afforded to us by the Constitution and uphold the law.”