SAN DIEGO – San Diego County police say three people protesting beach closures were arrested in Encinitas, California, on Saturday for violating health orders. The arrests occurred hours after the county announced plans to roll back beach restrictions and the city of Encinitas signaled its intention to reopen city beaches.
Protester Crista Anne Curtis, of Encinitas' Cardiff-by-the-Sea community, said she was aware the beaches were scheduled to reopen, but disagreed with the restrictions planned during the phased reopening, such as prohibitions against sun bathing and face covering requirements.
“I’m either free or I’m not,” Curtis told USA TODAY on Saturday. Curtis was not one of the protesters who was arrested.
Curtis — who has attended previous protests, was at Saturday's protest and plans to protest again in the future — says the arrests and citations occurred after some protesters ventured off the sidewalk near the beach and into the beach's sand. Officials estimated dozens of protesters were in attendance.
“They’re saying the sand is closed ... they literally drew the line at the sand,” she said of the protest that occurred at Moonlight Beach.
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San Diego County Sheriff's Department did not immediately return USA TODAY's request for comment. A release says several protesters sat on the beach, were given multiple opportunities to comply with police instructions and were arrested after refusing to cooperate.
Encinitas mayor Catherine Blakespear presented the planned beach reopenings as "some good news" in a Friday newsletter.
Blakespear told USA TODAY she believed the protesters knew the beaches would soon reopen but were trying to score political points through the protest and arrests.
For those impatient for the beaches to reopen, she commented: “not being able to go in the ocean two days before it opens is a pretty minor sacrifice,” especially when compared to the sacrifices being made by those fighting the virus on the front lines or those who have lost their job in the economic fallout.
The beach reopenings will be structured to protect public health while increasing access to the coast, Blakespear said. For example, parking lot closures will remain for now as a way of metering the number of people who will have access to the beach.
The timing of the reopenings had nothing to do with Saturday's protest or an earlier, larger protest, she said.
On Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom acknowledged many Californians would be tempted to gather outside as the state experienced a wave of summer-like weather.
"CA can only keep flattening the curve if we stay home and practice physical distancing. You have the power to literally save lives," he said in a tweet Friday.