UPDATE: Some beach-goers defied state orders Saturday to visit Orange County beaches, though not in the great numbers seen the previous weekend, when temperatures were much higher.
Crowds in the tens and hundreds maintained social distancing but still managed to get in some beach time, some choosing to merely show up to register disapproval of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order that closed state and local beaches.
No arrests or citations were reported, something the Orange County sheriff previously indicated. A large protest group in Huntington Beach was confronted by horseback riding police on Saturday. There was a heavy police presence in the city at the beaches, but less of a crowd and cooler weather seemed to dampen tempers.
Elsewhere across the US, businesses gradually reopened, but the majority of customers seemed to be wary, with few stores reporting much traffic.
EARLIER: It’s a crucial day for California in the civil war over whether the state should reopen for business and pleasure. It’s the first weekend day since Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s beaches and parks to be closed. It also comes a day after a massive rally in Huntington Beach over that closure was confronted by police on horseback.
The Southern California weather is cooperating. Instead of last weekend’s temperatures in the 90s driving people to seek cooler climates, today is expected to top out just short of 80 degrees.
But reopening is an issue that will only gain momentum, as a restive population tired of the economic shutdown gets bolder in its choices and businesses begin to restore services, some in defiance of government orders.
California isn’t the only state facing confrontations. Armed protesters have appeared in Michigan to confront politicians, and other states have had protests and business openings without authorization. Adding fuel to the anger over reopening is the slow or botched roll-out of unemployment compensation and federal assistance to businesses, leaving many without income and straining the resources of food banks and the patience of landlords.
In Sacramento on Friday, 33 people were arrested during a protest on the Capitol grounds, most for minor charges of disorderly conduct or refusing to obey police. Despite the arrests, the people have some support among law enforcement – Orange County’s sheriff said he won’t arrest beach-goers this weekend who defy the governor. Rural California counties have also quietly reopened some churches and businesses, with more expected to follow in the coming days. That will lend momentum to other businesses to follow suit.
At least one poll shows that the majority of Americans still favor restrictions on reopenings, with a survey by Northeastern, Harvard and Rutgers giving Newsom a vote of confidence on his handling of the state’s response.
Elsewhere around the country, most reopenings were quiet. While some customers lined up at a Maine restaurant whose owner appeared on Fox News to say he would open in defiance of his governor’s order, some businesses that opened reported only light customer traffic and still lighter sales.
In Texas, malls, stores, restaurants and movie theaters opened Friday at 25 percent of their previously permitted capacity. Medical and dental offices were also allowed to serve patients.
Iowa, Georgia, Nebraska, Colorado, South Carolina, Utah, Wyoming, Ohio and Oklahoma also eased restrictions in various ways on Friday. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said churches could reopen, but are restricted to 50 percent of capacity.
But other states extended the pandemic shutdowns to later in the month, with no promise of a final finish line. Washington, Oregon, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Maryland and Massachusetts were among those states extending their closure orders.
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