Hundreds gather in California to protest stay-at-home orders

Saturday, April 18, 2020
Hundreds gather in California to protest stay-at-home orders
Rose Riggio, from Los Angeles, joins a crowd of people gathered at the corner of Main Street and Walnut Avenue in Huntington Beach, Calif., to protest coronavirus (COVID-19) closures, April 17, 2020.

More than 200 protestors gathered in Huntington Beach, California, in what was the latest demonstration in the United States against stay-at-home orders under the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The "March for Freedom" event took place Friday afternoon at the intersection of Walnut and Main streets in the downtown area of Huntington Beach, about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Some protestors held signs reading "Quarantine the sick, not the healthy!" and "Open Cali now." One protestor wore what appeared to be a faux hazmat suit, donning a sign that said the virus was a "lie." The event described itself as a march for "freedom, liberty and reopening the California economy."

Like other demonstrations across the country, some protestors struck a partisan tone and waved "Trump 2020" flags.

Police said in a statement they were called to the scene and that while it was initially small, "it quickly grew to a group of over 200 people."

"We are asking our community and those that visit Huntington Beach to remember we are under an Executive Order by the State, which specifically states all residents of California should stay at home in an effort to help flatten the curve in regard to community spread of COVID-19," Huntington Police said in a statement. "The more people are out and gathered in groups, the more COVID-19 will spread in our community and endanger lives."

Police noted that they understood "emotions are high and many are frustrated with the current Executive Order." No arrests were made at the protest, police said.

A stay-at-home order is in effect in California until further notice. The majority of the states in the U.S. have adopted some form of a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

There are at least 706,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and at least 37,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Earlier this week, other protests took place in Michigan, Kentucky, Minnesota, Virginia, Utah, North Carolina and Ohio.

President Donald Trump has responded to the protests, saying that "it's been a tough process for people."

"You know, I told you, there's death and there's problems and staying at home too. It's not just, isn't it wonderful to stay at home," Trump told ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl on Thursday.

Though Trump said at one point governors would be "empowered" to make their own plans for reopening their states, he struck a much different tone less than 24 hours later.

"LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" and "LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!" the president tweeted on Friday morning.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has not responded to the protests directly, but he did tweet Friday urging people to stay home.

"CA is flattening the curve -- but we MUST continue to take this seriously. Stay home. Practice physical distancing," Newsom wrote.

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