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The protest, held in Encinitas, about 25 miles north of San Diego, came less than a week after the City Council closed the Coastal Rail Trail and the pedestrian portion of South Hwy 101 to “ensure compliance with the order for social distancing.”
City officials said, “Understanding that recreating is important for mental as well as physical health, the city encourages Encinitas residents to run and walk within their neighborhoods but do so safely within the paraments of the current orders.”
Crista Anne Curtis, who organized Sunday’s protest, told Fox News the move was frustrating because the area lacked sidewalks and the trail was the only way to get around. She also said that the trail had gotten busier since Encinitas closed its beaches, but the city has not experienced an increase in coronavirus cases.
“There were no new cases, Encinitas has only had 34 cases,” she said. “It’s clear what we’ve been doing has been working, and so I didn’t understand why we needed to do even more.”
On Thursday, Curtis created the Facebook page, “Free Encinitas,” with the event “(You gotta) FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS!…(To Surf, Walk, and Ride)!!”
A group of people met at Swami’s Surf Beach in Encinitas around 10 a.m. The protesters then headed south, making a stop outside Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear’s house.
Curtis said many people were heckling the protesters, while some displayed counter-demonstration signs in their windows. One of them read: “Beaches are non-essential.”
Curtis said her response was, “Freedom is essential. It’s not about the fact that it’s a beach or a trail. It’s the fact that they’re closing these things unnecessarily.”
Video images of the gathering showed people waving American and “Don’t tread on me” flags while lined along South Highway 101.
Curtis emphasized that the protestors were not against common-sense safety measures, but “there’s a limit to which these things are necessary, and it’s the point that government oversteps its control of the citizens and makes decisions without any rhyme or reason,” she said.
Neither City Council nor San Diego’s public-safety department could be reached for comment.
Encinitas officials have said their efforts to flatten the curve “are proving to be effective, and continued vigilance now will decrease the length of time this order will remain in place.”
Law enforcement officers were present at Sunday’s protest to ensure demonstrators were practicing social distancing. Officials said they issued no citations.
Another group of protesters had gathered in downtown San Diego on Saturday to protest against California’s stay-at-home order.
“We need to get back to work,” one protester said. “We’ve all been good citizens, we’ve all hung in there, we’ve all done what they’ve told us to do and it’s time to get back to work.”