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Crowd protesting police brutality met by counter-protesters in Huntington Beach

Demonstrators protesting police brutality in Huntington Beach were met by counter-protesters late Saturday morning, with police standing between the two sides and separating them.

A line of officers stood at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street as protesters sat and stood with signs near the pier, while counter-protesters stood along Main Street near businesses and restaurants.

The two sides remained mostly peaceful as they traded comments back-and-forth, with some on bullhorns.

“They’re just yelling at each other, so we are there preserving the peace,” Huntington Beach police spokeswoman Officer Angela Bennett said.

But about 1:45 p.m., a short fight broke out on the side of the counter protesters. Two men were led away in handcuffs and Bennett confirmed the department had made “a couple of arrests,” before order was restored.

More officers were brought in to stand between the two groups and a line of mounted police were on standby south of the protest along PCH.

Further information about the arrests was not immediately available.

Witnesses said the fight may have started when a counter protester threw water toward the protesters.

Demonstrators on Saturday again took to the streets around Southern California and the nation to protest police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 in Minneapolis after being restrained by an officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck even after stopped breathing.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers who were present have been charged with aiding and abetting.

Robert Estrada, 45, of Huntington Beach was disappointed to see others against the peaceful protest by the pier, but said he was thankful that police officers were keeping everyone safe.

Estrada said he was there to support ending racism, and held a sign that read, “Here to collect Breonna Taylor’s birthday gift, JUSTICE.”

Taylor, an African-American medical worker, was killed on March 13 in Louisville, Ky. when police broke down the door to her apartment in an attempted drug sting and shot her eight times.

“There’s a lot of changes we need to make,” he said. “It’s up to us individually to improve ourselves and to improve our society.”

De’Vynn Hampton, 25, of Long Beach said he was uncomfortable with the police presence as he stood with protesters, but said the group needed to be there to have their voices heard.

“We’ve been sitting out a little too long,” Hampton said. “I think it’s on all of us, no matter what color, no matter what background you have, to stand up during times like these and really fight the systematic oppression that’s been going on.”

John Turano, 52 of La Puente, stood with counter-protesters and said he came to Huntington Beach to protest the violence he had seen at other events in Southern California last weekend.

Last week’s protest in Huntington Beach did not damage any businesses, but Turano said he “didn’t want to see buildings burn down.”

“Not all of the people are bad, but some are bad,” he said.

Ronnie Bouma, a Cypress resident, came from his stay at a nearby Hilton hotel to watch the protest. He said what happened to Floyd was wrong.

“But does the whole country need to go to chaos because of one bad cop? No,” he said.

Protesters have pointed to other cases around the country where black people have died in police custody. The Black Lives Matter name and movement was intended to call attention to their deaths and push to make society better.

Counter-protesters at one point chanted “Blue lives matter,” and “USA.”

Last week, some protesters and counter-protesters came to blows during a demonstration in downtown Huntington Beach. Police ultimately fired pepper balls into the crowds to get them to disperse after declaring an unlawful assembly.

The Huntington Beach event was one of nearly a dozen scheduled in Orange County Saturday.

Earlier, in Irvine, more than 300 protesters marched along normally busy streets holding signs and chanting as they traversed more than three miles from University High School to the Civic Center Saturday morning, Commander Noelle Smiley said.

Protesters began marching northbound on Culver Road about 9 a.m., then turned left onto westbound Alton Parkway toward City Hall, Smiley said.

By 11 a.m., Irvine police said the protest had remained peaceful. Video showed protesters marching in the slow lane of traffic along Alton Parkway.

Protesters began marching back toward University High about 12:45 p.m., police said.

About noon, protesters lined the sidewalks along Commonwealth Avenue in Fullerton, in front of the public library and Amerige Park and near Highland Avenue, holding signs and chanting at passing motorists, some of which honked in support.

Signs were also hung along the fence in front of the park, while Congressman Gil Cisneros and City Council member Ahmad Zahra spoke at the event in front of the library.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Source: Orange County Register

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