No big crowds at SoCal beaches as legal fight continues over O.C. closures

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Much of Southern California’s coast appeared mostly empty Saturday as a legal battle brews between the state and some Orange County cities over beach closures.

It was a drastic change from the previous weekend’s crowded scene, which prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a temporary closure of all Orange County beaches in an effort to contain the COVID-19 outbreak that has killed more than 2,100 people in California.

But city leaders in Huntington Beach and Dana Point saw the governor’s move as “unconstitutional overreach.” They sought a temporary restraining order to reopen their shores but were rejected by an Orange County Superior judge on Friday.

On Saturday, Newport Beach voted to back those cities’ request for an injunction. A hearing has been set for May 11, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In the meantime, local authorities agreed to close beaches, where law enforcement officers said they were seeking “voluntary compliance” instead of making arrests.

As the coast remained mostly clear on Saturday, however, people gathered on the streets of Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Laguna Beach to rally against Newsom’s response to the pandemic.

Around 50 people convened in Huntington Beach—a fraction of the estimated 2,500 individuals who demonstrated in the coastal community just the day before. Many in Saturday’s crowd held signs: One read “Take off your masks.” Another bore the message “Give me liberty or death.”

In Seal Beach, about a dozen people, including children, carried American flags and held posters with messages criticizing the statewide stay-at-home order.

Up the coast, Los Angeles County beaches remain closed as they were last weekend.

Ventura County’s coast has been open, but only for surfing, swimming, walking, running and other activities that follow “keep moving” guidelines. Parking along the Pacific Coast Highway was closed.

On Saturday, the county’s officials commended locals for following the rules, saying that “Ventura County residents should be proud.”

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