Police Ready For Weekend Protest

Sgt. Jim Cota
Sgt. Jim Cota
By Cassandra Reinhart, Special to the Independent

Laguna Beach police say they are ready for two rallies this weekend that could bring hundreds of clashing protesters to Main Beach on Sunday evening.

 Police Sergeant Jim Cota said the Laguna Beach Police Department has been in contact with Sunday’s anti-immigration protest group, America First, for weeks to get a handle on when and where the group will be rallying.  As planned, the rally will start at Main Beach on Sunday, Aug. 20 at 6 p.m.  Ahead of Sunday’s protest, local progressive groups have organized a counter protest on Saturday, Aug. 19, starting at 10 a.m.
“We let them know they are able to excersize their First Amendment rights, but we will not tolerate physical violence to anyone or destruction of property,” Cota said.
Cota says the police department is anticipating “hundreds” at the Main Beach protest Sunday, including some splinter counter-protesters.  Cota says Laguna Beach police will have assistance at the rally from police departments in Newport Beach, Irvine and  Anaheim and the Orange County Sheriff.  He stopped short of saying they would call in the National Guard. “Only if the protest got to a point where violence and property destruction started to come into play,” Cota said.
Sunday’s anti-immigration rallying group, America First, is being organized by 29-year-old Johnny Benitez of Lake Forest, who says he doesn’t anticipate violence at the rally, and doesn’t support white supremacy but instead supports “white identity politics” and President Trump’s immigration policies.
America First has held five similar protests in Laguna Beach since March without incident, but Laguna Beach’s Mayor Toni Iseman said she believes this protest will be different.  “They’ve been inspired by what happened in Virginia,” Iseman said.
Cota disagrees, and says the community should carry on with their regular Sunday routine despite the protests.  He says police are not planning to divert or disrupt traffic on Coast Highway at Main Beach.
“This is not an extension of what happened back East, this is not a white supremacists’ rally,” Cota said.   “Feel safe, believe in your police department and everything will be fine.”
Stay tuned to lagunabeachindy.com and our Facebook page for live coverage and team reports from this weekend’s rallies.
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  1. Cota thinks this is not a white supremacist rally, even though the sponsor admits that he supports “white identity politics?” Interesting.


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