SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. —
Investigators from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department North Coastal Station are recommending charges against the organizer of a protest that took place in Encinitas Sunday, the department said Thursday. A case has been submitted to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for review and recommends one count be charged against Crista Curtis who planned the North County rally against the closure of public areas due to local and statewide stay-at-home orders.
According to the sheriff’s department, Curtis could be charged with one count for violation of California Government Code 8665. The charge is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.
On Sunday, a group of about 100 people in Encinitas protested the widespread closure of public spaces like parks, trails, and beaches as part of the COVID-19 related stay-at-home orders.
Curtis organized the demonstration which included surfers, hikers and others.
"There was no need to close the [Coastal] Rail Trail," Curtis told News 8 on Sunday. "It’s time to start opening the beaches back up."
The group met along the 101 in front of Swami's Beach that morning then headed south. The group made a stop outside Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear's house. Some carried signs that read "Recall Blakespear" while others hoisted American flags and surfboards with messages scrawled on them.
"To listen to the few naysayers... who want to control everybody else - look I’m just all about freedom," Curtis said Sunday. "I don’t want to tell someone else what to do and I don’t want to be told what to do."
On Wednesday, another woman who organized a separate weekend protest in downtown San Diego, which also opposed stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, announced she was facing possible misdemeanor charges that could result in 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Naomi Soria, 27, was one of hundreds who demonstratively opposed California's stay-at-home orders during a "Freedom Rally" Saturday afternoon in front of the Hall of Justice.
A spokesperson for SDPD confirmed, out of the hundreds at the protest, Soria was the only one they've submitted a case on to the city attorney's office. He told News 8 she is the one who organized the gathering and encouraged others to gather, which is a violation of the county's public health order to stay at home.
"They can't stop me," said Soria. "I'm exercising my God-given constitutional rights and I'm protected by all the amendments."
Following the weekend protests, many questioned why arrests or citations were not levied against the protesters for flouting public health orders prohibiting large public gatherings and asking people to stay six feet apart from one another.
In a joint statement issued Monday by the SDPD and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the agencies said that although the events were allowed to go forward, legal consequences would still be in order.
"While no citations were issued at the protests, that does not mean prosecution will not be sought, especially to the organizers of these events," the statement read in part.