Counterprotesters Take To Laguna Ahead Of Right-Wing Rally

By Alex Martinez

Demonstrators are gathering in Laguna Beach this weekend to counter an anti-illegal immigration rally Sunday held by a group called America First! that wants to shed light on crimes committed by immigrants. There will be two counterprotests held, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Dubbed the Unity Rally, the Saturday event is at Main Beach in Laguna and is expected to take place until 12 p.m. It’s being held in partnership with Indivisible OC, Laguna Beach Democratic Club, Orange County Racial Justice Collaborative, and Together We Will Orange County.

Organizers of the Unity Rally on the Facebook event page said they are “heeding the call from the Movement for Black Lives for a national day of action and solidarity with Charlottesville … and in response to the encroachment of racists and white supremacists on Sunday.”

Laguna Beach Mayor Toni Iseman is currently in attendance, according to the Orange County Register.

Counterprotesters on Sunday are also holding the “Anti-Fascist Protest: Laguna Beach” rally from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Main Beach. About 600 people have RSVPed on Facebook to attend the gathering planned by the Democratic Socialists of America Orange County.

“We won’t tolerate their violence, and we won’t let fascists intimidate us,” organizers said on the Facebook event page. “Let’s show up in force and deliver a strong message to them: there is no place for racism and hate in Orange County.”

On Sunday, anti-illegal immigration activists are holding a rally to, as they say, draw attention to the number of victims who have died as a result of undocumented immigrants driving drunk or committing gang-related crimes.

Lulu Hammad, an organizer of Saturday’s counterprotest, told the L.A. Times he found that kind of messaging offensive.

“The notion that illegal [immigrants] and refugees are starting crimes in our society, as if they are bringing this crime and illegal activity, is not true," Hammad told the L.A. Times.“This has always been an open space for people to have equal rights.”

The Sunday event, described as the “Electric Vigil for the Victims of Illegals and Refugees,” is scheduled to take place from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Main Beach in Laguna. Johnny Benitez, the organizer of the event, said in a YouTube video that their events are “family friendly.” He said it will be a diverse event with black people and Latinos attending. “We’re not white supremacists,” he said.

Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella told the Orange County Register the department has been in contact with the organizer. They told them they must be lawful, she said.