ENCINITAS, Calif. — A group of about 100 people protested the widespread closure of public spaces like parks, trails, and beaches as part of the COVID-19 related stay-at-home orders by gathering in Encinitas on Sunday morning.
The public Facebook group, Free Encinitas, put the event message out earlier this week and asked for the community to come out in support.
Crista Curtis organized the demonstration which included surfers, hikers and others all backing the same message.
"There was no need to close the [Coastal] Rail Trail," said Curtis. "It’s time to start opening the beaches back up."
The same goes for parks according to protestors. They believe it's been long enough and they should be able to decide where and how they social distance.
The group met along the 101 in front of Swami's Beach at 10 a.m. and 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.
"Find a middle ground," said protester Michelle Gerst. "It’s not about being reckless, irresponsible but moving in the right direction, opening back up."
As protesters rallied along the Coastal Rail Trail where their march ended with some of them going onto the closed trail, another group of community members nearby made their own statements with signs in big black letters.
"I think more people are going on the safer side," said Natalie Woodward who was against the protest.
"We're really concerned that our community isn't concerned about the collective group," said Theresa Woodward.
Theresa put signs up after she learned the protest would be passing her house.
"When you open the beaches, it’s not just community members from Encinitas - it’s people from all over, so that the big concern," she said.
Other neighbors echoed her sentiment.
"I think we have to keep with the program - social distancing and the stay at home order," said Russel Skerret.
Both sides were as passionate as they were divided.
"To listen to the few naysayers... who want to control everybody else - look I’m just all about freedom," said Curtis. "I don’t want to tell someone else what to do and I don’t want to be told what to do."
"It’s not safe and [it's] obvious that it could flare up at any time and you know it’s all very well to demonstrate but are they prepared to suffer the consequences if it doesn’t work and we have to go back to square one?" said Skerret.
The protest disbanded around noon, according to San Diego County Sheriff's Department officials.
No citations were issued, officials said.
The Encinitas protest came a day after a couple hundred San Diegans took to downtown San Diego defying "stay-at-home" orders to gather for a “Freedom Rally." Protesters there said they want businesses and beaches to open up now, citing only a small number of our population has been infected.
Chanting “USA, USA,” many dressed in red white and blue, waved American flags and shouted for California to re-open.