Three Arrests Made At Anti-Immigration Rally, Counter-Demonstration In Laguna Beach
As many as 2,500 people took to Main Beach at Laguna Beach at one point on Sunday night when a rally held by America First!, an anti-immigration group, was met by a large crowd of counter-protestors.
Sergeant Jim Cota, a public information officer with the Laguna Beach Police Department, told LAist that three arrests were made at the scene. One was for unlawful possession of a knife, another was for battery, and another was for resisting arrest. Cota noted that someone was pepper-sprayed by another demonstration attendee, but added that the situation was dealt "internally" within the person's group, and that no reports of an injury was filed. The incident was not related to any of the arrests.
One NBC4 reporter had taped a person getting treatment after being pepper-sprayed:
The America First! rally was scheduled for 6:30 p.m to 10 p.m. Two of the arrests were made around 9 p.m., and at around 9:30 p.m. police declared an unlawful assembly "due to the crowds not following police orders and running into the street," Laguna Beach PD said in a statement. By 10:00 p.m. all crowds had dispersed.
America First!, organized by Orange County resident Johnny Benitez, has been accused of being a racist and white supremacist group on social media. It has held prior demonstrations, including a July 30 event at Laguna Beach that was attended by about 100 people. Valentina Bankhead, who has attended several “America First!” rallies, told the OC Register that “This is not a KKK rally," adding that her father was born in Mexico. “How can I be some sort of racist? I’m proud of my father and my heritage.” She mentions that she'd called the police earlier in the day to report someone shouting Nazi slogans. The OC Register also says that someone with a large swastika tattoo on his neck also joined the rally.
“There are more of us with a moral conscience than those without,” said Newport Beach resident Joni Nichols, speaking on the large number of counter-protestors. “We cannot be silent,” Rick Macias added to the OC Register. “That’s how evil wins.”
Cota said in a press release that over 250 officers and deputies responded from other agencies and assisted with crowd control, mounted patrol, and air support. He told the Times that Laguna Beach had not seen this large a gathering of people and law enforcement since the 1993 fire.