The shores of California have become a hotbed of conflict in recent weeks as coronavirus lockdowns continue and politicians compete for who is best able to ruin a day at the beach.
The most recent contender is Jeff Gorell, deputy mayor for homeland security and public safety in Los Angeles, whose aerial footage showed off empty beaches and a closed amusement pier as he proudly tweeted, “[w]ent along on beach checks” followed by all of the requisite hashtags.
— 𝐉eff 𝐆orell (@JeffGorell) May 2, 2020
While Gorell celebrated vacant beaches as a job well done by city and state officials and their draconian stay-at-home orders, many of his constituents continued to suffer the resulting economic hardship.
In Los Angeles County alone, a University of Southern California survey reported that only 45 percent of residents were employed in the first two weeks of April, compared with 52 percent nationally. In mid-March, 61 percent of county residents had jobs.
People are hungry and rely on the thousands of free meals distributed by charitable organizations just to make it through.
Still, Gorell and others applaud their power to keep people trapped in their homes rather than out safely enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has literally been all over the map with beach closures.
While beaches in Los Angeles County largely remained closed, the open Southern California sands were blanketed with thousands of visitors during a spring heatwave at the end of April.
The Democratic governor didn’t like it and subsequently closed Orange County beaches on Thursday, prompting a protest in the streets.
On Friday, KNBC tweeted a video of a massive crowd protesting in Huntington Beach after Newsom closed the beaches in Orange County.
“Police and sheriff’s deputies on horseback, on foot and on motorcycles set up skirmish lines to keep protesters out of the street in front of the Huntington Beach Pier, where thousands have amassed to rally against the governor’s closure of OC beaches,” the outlet reported.
Police and sheriff’s deputies on horseback, on foot and on motorcycles set up skirmish lines to keep protesters out of the street in front of the Huntington Beach Pier, where thousands have amassed to rally against the governor’s closure of OC beaches. https://t.co/6QmVcT7BeM pic.twitter.com/8KO2DCrPTe
— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) May 1, 2020
The crowd appeared orderly and peaceful, but because people have been stuck at home long enough — jobless, lonely and ready for just a modicum of normality — they’re starting to push back.
The longer people are stuck in government-imposed isolation, the less likely scenes like this will remain so calm and civil. Government edicts are destroying more lives and livelihoods by the day, and patience under those circumstances is a limited resource.
Instead of allowing folks to enjoy a relatively safe form of recreation, politicians who think they know better than their own constituents are limiting their freedoms.
Ironically, by punitively closing the beaches where people supposedly weren’t following social distancing rules, politicians have forced those same people to congregate in tight quarters to protest as their only means to win back the right to enjoy the seaside.
Newsom has since backed down on some of the closures, according to The Orange County Register.
“They put together an outstanding plan to begin reopening those beaches,” the governor said in his Monday briefing regarding San Clemente and Laguna Beach.
“These public open spaces are opening back up with plans in place now to deal with all the concerns around physical distancing and social distancing,” Newsom added, not indicating whether his decision had anything to do with the protests or legal action filed on behalf of the targeted beaches.
The coronavirus is still a threat, but the growing tension of a population thrown into sudden poverty and isolation from government actions may prove to be the bigger danger. And that will certainly be no day at the beach.
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