What, exactly, is the message of these Quarantine Protesters?




You can take my board from my cold, dead hands.

This past Friday, thousands gathered in Huntington Beach around Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street to protest the governor’s stay-at-home order. This protest had been planned for some time, but I’m sure it received a bump in both press and attendance given Gov. Newsom’s hard closure of all Orange County beaches. Estimates from Huntington Beach police put the crowd size somewhere between 2,500 – 3,000 people. It’s worth noting that the OC Register’s account of the protest pointed out that most in the crowd were not wearing masks or any other kind of personal protective equipment.

One protester invoked the name of Rosa Parks and brought up the Second Amendment when he spoke to the police. Others waved MAGA flags. Still others held up signs that read, among other things, “All jobs are essential” and “My freedom is essential”. Similar gatherings occurred in the nearby cities of Newport Beach and San Clemente, no doubt spurred on by the governor’s focus on Orange County beaches. Tensions were high and people attempted to reclaim both the beaches and their cities from what they see as the maniacal grip of a tyrannical despot.

In short…

I honestly don’t understand what these people were trying to accomplish.

These protests came on a day that saw a 22% spike in COVID-19 cases in Orange County. Now, while that number obviously cannot be attributed to the gatherings that happened on May 1, the trend is still very clear. The county department of health’s own data shows that new cases are increasing, rather than decreasing. People point to the estimated mortality rate of the virus (though that number is still very much in question) as a reason to ignore or downplay most, if not all of the safety recommendations of both health officials and the governor’s office. As if death were the only bad thing that could happen to a person who contracts this very real and very dangerous infection.

Every day we see new cases.

But there is at least some merit to that argument. Orange County does have the lowest per capita mortality rate from COVID-19 among all surrounding counties.

Now, the real question is this: have we actually been effective in our efforts to socially distance and protect ourselves from the more deadly repercussions of the virus, or have we just been lucky? It’s too early to tell, really. Experts can’t really point to a reason why our mortality rate is so much lower than our neighbors. There are a lot of factors to consider, and chief among them is affluence. Wealthier communities tend to fair better during crises of any kind. This coronoavirus outbreak is no different.

The more access one has to medical care, the less one has to rely on a paycheck coming in every week, the less dense a city’s population, the better the likelihood that a person will be able to deal with a COVID-19 infection. And really, think about the cities in Orange County that have been most adamant about abolishing the governor’s stay-at-home order: Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, San Clemente, etc. These are affluent beach communities full of (mostly) affluent people who, as I pointed out in a previous article, do not like being told what to do. They are a very vocal minority. And they are a minority.

“I’ll take one vaccine, please.”

Still, despite the hardships faced by those around the state, a strong majority of Californians (~70%) believe the stay-at-home orders should be maintained. Gov. Newsom is banking on that number supporting his decisions in the coming weeks and months. And, just doing the simple math, that is a much larger number of California votes than the few thousands that turned out at the various protests around the state on May 1. And, as it pertains to Orange County, it’s still unclear how many of those who attended the Beach Cities rallies were even Orange County residents. Several accounts indicated people had come from as far away as Lancaster to join in the PCH protests.

Ultimately, I’m left wondering if anyone who showed up to these demonstrations was actually serious about reopening the state. I’m sure, if you asked them, they would say absolutely. That it was their constitutional duty to protest against the abuses of government. That freedom mattered more than their health, their lives, and the health and lives of their loved ones. And, honestly, they may actually believe that.

But, like so many before them, they fail to grasp the other side of that equation. Freedom always has a cost, and that cost often isn’t standing in a large group of like-minded people while chanting slogans and holding up signs. No, there is a responsibility that comes with freedom. The responsibility to do what’s right and good for both yourself and society. I feel like so many of the people protesting the governor’s order are only doing it for themselves. They feel personally attacked by his actions, but they also fail to see how their own actions may and do affect others. Not only do they fail to see it, they categorically don’t care.

So many of these people are patriots without a cause — No great war, no great movement, no great obstacle to overcome. They are adrift in the sea of 21st century ennui and angst. They grab hold of any cause that might give them a momentary feeling of accomplishment. Something which can cast them in the same light as American heroes and patriots of yesteryear.

But, alas, no. There are no Lincolns, no Washingtons, no Rosa Parks, No Martin Luther Kings, and no true patriots among them. There is true suffering out there both because of this virus and because of public and government’s reaction to it. Somehow, I doubt many of these protesters in Huntington Beach and other cities in Orange County are suffering all that much.

They are just scared children throwing a tantrum because their toys have been taken away. I just wish they would wear a mask while throwing their fit.

About Sean Cocca

Born and raised in Orange County, Sean graduated from CSULB with a degree in Journalism -- something he has tried (and failed) to exorcise from his life. He resides in North OC. He's grown far more politically independent over the years and staunchly refuses to join a political party. Follow him on twitter @NPPinCA.