Authorities declared an unlawful assembly Sunday in Huntington Beach, where anti-racism protesters squared off with supporters of a planned “White Lives Matter” demonstration.
The Huntington Beach Police Department made the declaration in the area of Fifth Street and Walnut Avenue shortly before 3 p.m., “in order to disperse an unruly crowd,” police said.
More than 200 demonstrators, some with the Black Lives Matter movement, had assembled at the city’s pier beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday, two hours before the scheduled “WLM” rally.
The Black Lives Matter protesters occupied Pier Plaza to prevent demonstrations by the WLM group, KNX reported.
Huntington Beach police arrested several people for noise violations, interference with police and one for alleged weapons possession.
The WLM rally was part of a nationwide group of protests planned in a handful of cities across the country to combat what organizers see as the threat to the white race from multiculturalism and what they term as the “anti-white” bias in media, government and education.
The group promoted the events though the social media platform Telegram. Attendees were encouraged to wear masks “for anonymity.”
In the days leading up to the rallies, Huntington Beach police and Orange County sheriff’s officials said they would be out in force to keep the peace in the event of a potential square-off between attendees on both sides.
Three arrests were reported in the early going Sunday. One was for the municipal code violation of amplified sound at the beach, Huntington Beach Police Lt. Brian Smith told the Los Angeles Times.
They arrested a second person for allegedly obstructing police and having a metal baton, two cans of pepper spray and a knife in his backpack, Smith said.
They also detained a woman for unknown reasons.
Things began to grow heated after 1 p.m. Many people carrying American flags and signs supporting former President Donald Trump got into profane verbal exchanges with BLM supporters.
Many counter-demonstrators chanted “Nazis go home!”
At least one WLM supporter was surrounded and violently pushed by several anti-racism demonstrators, according to video posted on Twitter.
Police would not provide specifics about their plans to monitor the rally, other than to say “increased staffing of public safety personnel” was expected.
“There will be a large contingent of police officers working in the area, along with various assets including a regional mounted unit and aviation assets,” Smith said Friday. He added that “resources from allied agencies will also be on standby should the need arise.”
Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, said the sheriff has pledged his mounted patrol units to help with crowd control and law enforcement. Investigators were also monitoring online chatter to see if there will be similar protests elsewhere, Braun said.
The planned events come at a time when anti-Asian bigotry is on the rise during the pandemic and local communities including Newport Beach and Huntington Beach have been papered with fliers advertising the Ku Klux Klan.
The OC Human Relations Council held a virtual workshop on Zoom at 1 p.m. Sunday to help residents confront public acts of racism.
“It will provide tools for how to stand up and interrupt when you see hate and bigotry,” the group’s Alison Edwards said.
“If you can be reasonably sure you can be safe, there are a series of things people can do” when they encounter a racist act in public, “like creating a distraction like just asking what time is it to break up the interaction,” Edwards said.
Since January, the organization has logged 14 anti-Asian hate incidents, Edwards said.