EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include an excerpt from a joint statement released by the San Diego County Sheriff and San Diego Police Department in response to this past weekend’s protests.
ENCINITAS — More than two hundred people gathered near Swami’s State Beach on Sunday to protest the closure of beaches, parks and trails in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Freedom Rally” event was organized by Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident Crista Curtis and promoted by Free Encinitas, a Facebook group. The public gathering took place after a similar rally against stay-at-home orders was held on Saturday in downtown San Diego.
Curtis told CBS 8 she was particularly upset about the city’s recent closure of the Coastal Rail Trail, a paved shared-use path that runs from Santa Fe Drive in Encinitas to Chesterfield Drive and San Elijo Avenue in Cardiff.
“There was no need to close the [Coastal] Rail Trail,” Curtis said. “It’s time to start opening the beaches back up.”
Protestors of all ages, many of whom were not wearing masks, carried U.S. flags and held handmade signs urging city leaders to ease the stay-at-home orders and open public beaches, parks and trails.
Deputies kept watch to make sure participants were practicing safe distancing measures, and no citations were issued, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department officials said.
In a joint statement released on April 20 by the San Diego County Sheriff and San Diego Police Department, law enforcement officials wrote: “Although the protests were allowed to take place, we must not forget the public health orders were put in place to protect our communities from the spread of COVID-19. While no citations were issued at the protests, that does not mean prosecution will not be sought, especially to the organizers of these events.”
Numerous passing cars honked and waved at the crowd, including an Encinitas Fire Department truck.
Some of the signs held by protestors read, “Your fear doesn’t remove my rights,” “This is punishment, not protection,” “Saltwater is safe” and “Xi Jinping = Newsom.”
Encinitas resident Paul Tornillo attended the rally with his wife April and daughter Zoe.
Tornillo said he felt the some of the closures and health restrictions were too harsh, infringing on people’s civil liberties and freedom.
“We got to have a more measured response,” Tornillo told The Coast News. “This virus is very serious, but our leadership has acted out of hysteria and fear.”
After approximately one hour, the group began marching along South Coast Highway 101 before eventually arriving at Mayor Catherine Blakespear’s house, with some carrying signs that said “Recall Blakespear” and “Blakespear is non-essential,” according to wire reports.
The protests against stay-at-home restrictions in San Diego and Encinitas were among several nationwide demonstrations happening over the weekend in Olympia, Washington, Springfield, Illinois, and Denver, Colorado, among other cities.
As of April 19, San Diego County health officials reported 55 individuals infected with COVID-19, bringing the total of confirmed cases to 2,268 with 71 deaths.
Of the total positive cases, about 24% have required hospitalization and about 8% have needed intensive care, officials said.
According to county health statistics, there have been 34 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Encinitas and no deaths.
At the time of publication, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Oceanside, Vista, Escondido and San Marcos have combined for a total of 281 cases of coronavirus, according to county data.
More pictures from Sunday’s rally below: