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Swami's Protest
Hundreds of residents protesting the closure of beaches, trails and parks hold signs on Sunday near Swami's State Beach in Encinitas. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram
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Encinitas residents protest beach, trail closures at ‘Freedom Rally’

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.”

Swami's Protest
Protest organizer Crista Curtis, left, holds a sign alongside South Coast Highway 101 on Sunday in Encinitas. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram

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.”

Swami's protest
A protestor holds a misspelled sign reading, “Impeach Fauchi,” which refers to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram

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:

Swami's Protest
A group of protestors waving U.S. flags and holding signs on April 19 in Encinitas. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram
Swami's Protest
Encinitas resident Paul Tornillo and his daughter, Zoe, joined the rally on Sunday in Encinitas. Photo by Jordan P. Ingram


Paul April 24, 2020 at 11:55 am

I would like to thank Jordan Ingram for reporting accurately and fairly which is something
that is extremely rare and almost non-existent in today’s hyperbolic news world.
Jordan- keep up the great work young man. The only advice I have for you is while pursuing your dreams always remain honest and do your best to keep bias out of your reporting – this will always get people’s attention.

Do you believe in liberty and freedom or not?
Liberty is not easy and was/is never going to be easy.
Liberty has consequences.
Freedom has consequences.
We as Americans or American Immigrants believe as the most wealthy & prosperous freedom loving Constitutional Republic for over 200 years that consequences are worth it.
The price that we pay for liberty –
Yes people get sick sometimes because they may not get a flu shot.
People go to the hospital because they eat terribly.
People drink and drive.
People choose to smoke knowing it will kill them and take up health care services –
But we want to be free.
We were born to be free.
God has touched us and blessed us with the big “R” God given right to freedom.
Do you believe in it or not?
And if you believe in it then what is going on now is a travesty.
We live in a world of risk that is never going away. Never.
These lock-downs are a catastrophic mistake.
26 million people unemployed.
Did you think this through?
Suicide – two local teenagers recently committed suicide
Tens of thousands of small businesses lost and will never return.

This was never a single variable problem – ever.
This was a complicated multivariable problem which required a multivariable analysis
which never came.
Pareto Optimality analysis is needed.

I recently gave $1000 towards my daughters school here in Encinitas to feed those who are suffering during this economic calamity.
For those that just want bash and criticize before you do I challenge you to do same and I will personally match all of your donations up to $1000 (total).

Will you join me in helping those that really and truly need it right now during this difficult time?

Casandra April 21, 2020 at 1:03 am

I cannot believe that a journalist, reporter or blogger would miss the fact that the majority of people protesting were not wearing face masks and were not adhering to the social distancing mandate (6’). Yet, the argument by many was that the beaches & trails needed to be opened as they should be treated as responsible adults. ?‍♀️ The message I received from many in these Encinitas crowds as well as those protesting (aka rallying) in Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia was that they were not going to be told what to do whether it was standing 6’ apart or wearing a face mask.

Jennifer Ball April 21, 2020 at 11:16 am

Great point. If they aren’t social distancing and wearing a mask while protesting (which was done in Israel!), then why trust them with the beach? Too many people still don’t get that this contagion is going to get worse.

Bill Cavanaugh April 20, 2020 at 6:15 pm

200 people disobey laws and its huge news….but 68,000 in Encinitas ….obeyed the laws…to protect their family and neighbors. Where was that story?

Jeremy K. April 20, 2020 at 3:08 pm

No tickets were issued to those individuals protesting in Encinitas yesterday, according to press reports.

A strong case can now be made that any and all tickets issued to citizens in San Diego County for disobeying rules on social distancing in public spaces should be rendered void. The SDCS cannot be allowed under these specific circumstances to cherry pick who is subject to the law and who is not. It was always deeply problematic on several levels, yet always allowed under color of law. We have always looked the other way and now we must not, due to the lethal nature of Covid-19.

The SDCS also risks a hollowing of its authority and legitimacy through this cherry picking under the cover of “police discretion”.

They expressly fail in these instances to truly protect and to serve the people of San Diego County, in service to and protection of nothing. Those individuals have a constant and unimpeded right to free speech but not to gather in close proximity in such great numbers, occupying and blocking a public space to exercise that right.

We have dismissed the rights of others in the community to be protected FROM these individuals by the spread of a highly contagious and deadly disease. Shame on all of us for allowing this.

These are Republicans, btw, not being ticketed by other Republicans.

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