Newport Beach votes to support legal action filed by other O.C. cities after state-ordered closure of county beaches

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Newport Beach voted Saturday to support legal action filed by the cities of Huntington Beach and Dana Point to reopen Orange County beaches after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a countywide shutdown of shores Thursday.

After voting Tuesday to keep their beaches open “in a safe manner,” the Newport Beach City Council held a special meeting Saturday to discuss legal options to challenge the governor’s directive. The order came after photos and videos from last weekend’s crowds at O.C. beaches drew criticism amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Huntington Beach City Council voted 5-2 Thursday night to direct the city attorney to pursue “any and all legal actions necessary to challenge the State’s beach closure directive.”

During a press briefing Friday, Newsom said, “As it related to the lawsuit, all I can say is, doesn’t surprise me.”

Later that day, a judge blocked the temporary restraining order, allowing the governor’s order to shut down beaches to remain in place.

More than 2,500 people gathered Friday in Huntington Beach — the same day countywide beach closures went into effect — to protest California’s stay-at-home order.

Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy said that signs would be up by Saturday morning, notifying beachgoers that the shores were closed.

“We’re going to be continuing with our posture of seeking voluntary compliance wherever we can. We’ll start with education,” Handy said, adding that police would talk to people about the purpose of the closures and ask them to leave the beach.

“Ultimately if we don’t get that voluntary compliance, enforcement will take place and that can come in several different ways and its really whoever is necessary depending on the situation,” he said.

Electronic signs that read “Beach and Pier Closed” could be seen in Seal Beach Saturday morning, urging people with questions to call the O.C. hotline at 833-426-6411. Other O.C. beaches had signs that read “The beaches and bike paths are closed,” with print stating that violators would be subject to enforcement.

A smaller crowd of protesters gathered in Huntington Beach again Saturday morning, with signs that read, “Take off your masks,” “Expose the deep state,” and “Give me liberty or give me death.”

While a few people could been seen wearing masks, a majority were not. Aerial footage showed they were not practicing social distancing rules, defying the state’s orders.

Sky5 footage showed nearly a dozen people, including children, gathered in Seal Beach to protest around noon, with more people gathered around them, watching and taking photos.

More protests were demonstrating in Laguna Beach in the afternoon, carrying signs such as “Recall Governor Newsom.” Many were waving American flags, and while some wore masks, many did not.

Meanwhile, L.A. County beaches remain closed. Ventura County beaches are open with social distancing guidelines, although crowds were apparently not as large as those in O.C. last weekend.

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