An organizer of Encinitas protests against COVID-19 lockdowns has alarmed some with a Facebook post that speculates Gov. Gavin Newsom’s beach-closure orders might spark violence.
Crista Anne Curtis, who manages the Facebook group “Free Encinitas,” wrote Thursday: “I don’t want to sound extreme here, but this is WHY we have the 2nd Amendment.”
She later posted a link to a Foxnews.com story on Michigan protesters carrying guns. Her comment: “Is this an inappropriate reaction? When ‘laws’ are illegal, this is what you get.”
In recent years, public officials — including then-candidate Donald Trump and Sarah Palin — have drawn fire for invoking the right to bear arms in criticism of their opponents.
Carl Luna, the San Diego Mesa College political scientist and longtime observer of local politics, noted the U.S. Supreme Court’s Heller case, which found an individual right to possess firearms unconnected to service in a state militia for traditionally lawful purposes such as home defense.
But Luna said: “Nowhere did [Justice] Antonin Scalia write that the 2nd Amendment can be used to justify armed domestic insurrection. And Jefferson put the bar for rebellion at ‘a long train of abuses and usurpations (of rights).’ Not being allowed to go to the beach for a few weeks hardly qualifies.”
Times of San Diego asked Curtis — who could face charges for her protests — for an interview on her “second amendment” remark.
“I don’t have any comment on that,” she said via Facebook Messenger. “I’m not a constitutional scholar, so I’m asking the question. If you can find someone that knows the answer, I would love to hear from them.”
In the same chat, Curtis said: “Let me suggest that you investigate the paid protestors that show up at freedom rallies to make a peaceful group look bad.”
She took a shot against news coverage of her protests.
“The media twists news. I’ve experienced it personally and [the press] focuses on the few outliers that were paid to be there rather than the merits of the rally/protest,” she said.
Michael Schwartz, executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners, echoed that sentiment when asked for comment on the Curtis exchange.
“Is this your first day on the job, Ken?” he replied. “Please include in your story that you reached out to me and my comment was, ‘Ken, this is the dumbest request I have ever had from a reporter.’”
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department arrested three people Saturday at another Curtis protest, titled “The Surf’s Up Shred the Tidal Wave of Tyranny.”
A sheriff’s spokeswoman Thursday declined to comment on Curtis, but said: “If deputies observe violations of the public health orders, they will generally attempt to gain compliance first, but always have the discretion to enforce the orders if they deem it is appropriate.”
Protest organizer Curtis is a licensed real-estate broker, and the state Department of Real Estate lists her mailing address as a home in Riverside. But the Riverside County Registrar of Voters Office said Curtis is not currently registered to vote in that county.
On Friday, San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said a Crista Curtis had been removed from voter rolls after she moved out of the county.
“The Crista Curtis we have registered in January of 2020 … moved out of the county to Riverside in April of 2020,” Vu said in response to a query.
In 2016, San Diego Metro* Magazine included Curtis in its “40 Under 40” issue of “men and women who represent some of the best and brightest minds of San Diego County.”
Media reports say Curtis is a Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident — a section of Encinitas.
Asked where she lives, Curtis replied: “Why does it matter where someone is from? … Just tell people I’m an illegal alien demanding the constitution protect my rights to the first and second amendment and I’ll be voting republican without any ID in the next election.”
Luna, the political science professor, said that if Curtis didn’t want to sound extreme, she shouldn’t say extreme things.
He said her statement “that’s WHY we have the 2nd Amendment” should be placed in the context of social media chatter that calls Newsom a tyrant and the COVID closures of business and beaches a dictatorial violation of the constitution and individual rights.
Luna said Curtis basically suggests that if the state doesn’t relax these policies, then Curtis and her “Free Encinitas & San Diego [County]” movement would be justified in pursuing armed insurrection.
“Really?” Luna said via email. “Violent revolution because the beaches are closed?”
He noted sarcastically: “Reminds me of that line Jefferson wrote in the Declaration condemning the King: ‘He hath, in the manner of the most tyrannical of despots, deprived these colonies of their Right to sun, suds and surfing.’ And, of course, let’s not forget Patrick Henry saying ‘I know not what course others may take but as for me give me SPF40 and a good surf break or give me death.’”
Backing Curtis on Facebook was user Kendall Salsberry: “Us former Encinitans (RIP) who have since moved to Texas have been stocking up on guns and ammo! All the stores are selling out! ???? you guys are welcome to flee communism to come here and vote red!”
But another member of the 430-person Free Encinitas group posting under the name Jeffrey Papendieck offered Curtis a caution.
“I have noticed some extreme views posted lately,” he said. “Let’s keep our eyes on the prize. Our power will grow as our numbers do. When we post, we should think how it looks to a prospective newcomer.”
Papendieck added: “Do we want to look like a group of extremists? We have to attract the undecided middle majority. … When I am writing, I am Thomas [Paine], when I am printing flyers I am Ben Franklin, when I am handing out flyers I am Paul Revere, When I am standing on the street with my sign, I am George Washington.”
Luna said such remarks would be laughable if they didn’t reflect what he called a terrible trend in contemporary libertarian politics — “anything anyone does that inconveniences me in any way is a violation of my right to do whatever I want and make other people pay the cost of my selfishness.”
“The whole thing borders on sociopathy,” Luna wrote. “Bottom line is that the closures to date have been done under legal order according to our state and national constitutional system. If you don’t like these policies (which are supported, by the way, by 70%-80% of Americans), then change things at the ballot box in November.”
He said he shares Curtis’ concerns about the economic costs of the closures.
“But my beef is with the failure of the national government to provide the funding and relief Americans need to stay home and not work while continuing to pay rents and buy things to keep themselves and the economy going,” he said.
“I find these protests simultaneously asinine, solipsistic and dangerous to constitutional order. Sorry for the lengthy reply, but the actions of groups like these really fry my green tomatoes.”
Two weeks ago, a Reddit user said Curtis was “making a run for Dean Spanos’ spot on top the most hated San Diegan list.”
Another user said: “I’m from Encinitas, and there’s no doubt we have our share of wackos here. But we also have a lot of good people. I think the majority of people in Encinitas feel the same way about these ‘protesters’ as the people [on the Reddit board] do.”
Meanwhile, an “OPEN ENCINITAS” rally — also called “All Businesses are Essential” — was promoted on the Facebook page for 10 a.m. Sunday.
“I still have a boom box and an iPhone with a jack,” wrote Papendieck, who has donated $50 to a GoFundMe page benefiting Encinitas arrestees.
“I don’t know if the cops will allow it, but it would be nice to have music. I’ve been promoting this as a party,” he wrote. “Song list so far: What’s Going On (Marvin Gay), What’s Up (4 Non Blondes), It’s The End Of The World (REM), Street Fighting Man (Rolling Stones), Run For Cover (Killers). Open to suggestions.”
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly said San Diego Magazine.
Updated at 2:08 p.m. May 1, 2020