Hundreds of Black Lives Matter supporters assembled in protest of a White Lives Matter rally Sunday at Huntington Beach Pier Plaza after KKK and white supremacist flyers were found in a nearby neighborhood.
The flyers that appeared in Huntington Beach Easter weekend preceded an announcement of a White Lives Matter rally scheduled to take place Sunday at 1 p.m.
Tory Johnson, founder and head of the Huntington Beach Black Lives Matter Chapter, organized a BLM counter-protest two hours earlier that same day. After reading on social media that a White Lives Matter rally was being organized, he felt compelled to hold the counter-protest.
“White lives have always mattered. We’re trying to change the narrative for inclusion,” Johnson said.
A total of two people showed up specifically for the White Lives Matter rally.
However, Johnson stated that the Black Lives Matter chapter in Los Angeles and the NAACP disagreed with organizing the Huntington Beach counter-protest, revealing they had safety concerns.
Black Liberation Movement leader, Anthony Bryson, spoke at the counter-protest.
“We need to stand together and fight in every corner and every room. Individually we stand but united; we’re strong,” Bryson said.
“Huntington Beach lives matter, too”, Bryson commented. He plans to run to represent California’s 47th Congressional District in 2022.
By noon, an hour after the start of the event, there were 200 BLM protesters, chanting and waving signs, with about nine police officers surveilling the pier. About six more watched from across the street.
The Black Lives Matter counter-rally sang chants that acknowledged the suffering of Black lives within the community and the recent violence against the Asian community.
While police did not heavily involve themselves in protesters’ throng, six arrests were made during the counter-protest.
“Two of the initial arrests were noise violations for having amplified noise devices in the beach area,” said Lt. Brian Smith of the Huntington Beach Police Department.
A man interfered with the police during the arrests and was taken into custody, according to Lt. Smith. After searching his backpack, police found a knife, metal billy club, and two cans of pepper spray.
Lt. Smith added that another female was arrested for pepper spray possession after someone saw her remove the spray from her bag and put it in her pocket.
The officer confirmed that none of the weapons were used.
Two Trump supporters carrying flag poles arrived on Main Street around 12:45 p.m., almost two hours after the beginning of the BLM rally. About 30 minutes later, the two Trump supporters made their way to a corner just across from the pier, where the BLM rally was taking place. BLM protesters crossed the street to meet the Trump supporters, and the two sides merged.
Tensions in the crowd quickly escalated and became aggressive. Eight uniformed officers on horses rode to both corners where the agitated crowds stood, blocking off-street access and keeping people on the sidewalk. A few fights broke out but were diffused quickly.
A mob harassed a masked man at the Huntington Beach Police substation, who was eventually taken into protection by the police. Around 20 officers were present at the station, at least eight of them dressed in combat gear. Tensions remained high after the man was detained and a few fights broke out in front of the station.
Protesters chanted at the officers surrounding the substation and blocked a moving officer vehicle. The crowd eventually moved back down Walnut toward Main Street, where about 500 protesters were present among 50 officers, including the SWAT team.
Lt. Smith explained SWAT is utilized by HBPD so mobile field force units can enforce crowd control and crowd safety.
Just before 3 p.m., an unlawful assembly was declared to disperse the protest. Crowd agitation diffused soon after and the unlawful assembly declaration was lifted.
The City of Huntington Beach hosted a virtual event during the same time as the BLM rally. The Zoom event was titled Hate Free HB and consisted of speeches from various local and state officials on being more cognizant of implied racism in their stand against hate.
Mayor Kim Carr spoke about what the city council has passed in order to stifle hate crimes. The city council created a diversity, equity, and inclusion website where all reported hate crimes and incidents are posted. Huntington Beach is also working with their Human Relations Task Force and HBPD to develop solutions to prevent further future hate crimes.
“We want to create outreach opportunities…” Carr said, “…that will celebrate Surf City’s diverse community and restore our Aloha spirit.”
OC Human Relations Confidential Hotline: 714-480-6580 or its website.
Report a Non-Emergency Hate Crime to Huntington Beach Police: 714-960-8825