- James Preston Allen
By James Preston Allen, Publisher
SAN PEDRO — At about 6 p.m. May 8, several dozen cars and motorcycles started to gather and cruise along Pacific avenue between 17th Street and 6th Street. It was the very first day that the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home orders were starting to be lifted, allowing flower shops, book and record shops and clothing stores to provide “curbside pickup” like restaurants have been doing since March 19. This however looked like a celebration. But it was a protest. Social distancing and masks were not prevalent.
They were greeted by several patrol cars and motor units from the Los Angeles Police Department and at least one California Highway Patrol unit. The street was blocked off between 9th and 11th Streets forcing the lowrider crowds to park at the Bank of America and the AutoZone lots, where the gathering continued without the cruising.
The parade of classic cars, souped up Chevys and other hot rods made for a traffic jamb of noise and exhaust that caught residents by surprise. The past 60 days have seen such limited traffic on this avenue and even up the freeways that it seemed like another world and not in Los Angeles. Residents along Pacific Avenue complained about the noise and exhaust fumes and police responded by blocking Pacific. This appeared to be an attempt to limit the amount of cruisers and traffic in the area. This did not have the desired effect.
Cars and motorcycles ended up parking up and down Pacific from about 3rd to 12th streets with groups of onlookers gathering in several parking lots. The largest crowd was seen at the Bank of America parking lot where at least 100 people gathered with no social distancing and many not caring to at least wear a face covering. There didn’t appear to be any arrests nor incidents coming out of this cruise night but there did seem to be an air of elation that the lockdown was partially lifted and that some people had had enough sitting on their couches for the last two months. This event ended by 9 or 10 p.m. that evening.
White Point Demonstration Fizzles
The following day, May 9, at the entrance to Royal Palms Beach at the southern end of Western Avenue a very small group of eight or more people who were calling the lockdown “unconstitutional” and waving American flags assembled at about noon. This uprising seems to have been organized on a Facebook page that members mistakenly thought would go viral. They were wrong. Even in this part of San Pedro, which has the highest number of conservative voters and is one of the few precincts in San Pedro that actually voted for Trump in 2016, people were not convinced of the rightness of this event.
Unlike Huntington Beach, in Orange County, the week before where some 1,500 protesters showed up waving flags and demanding “their constitutional rights” to go to the beach or surf, San Pedro doesn’t seem to be under the same impression or interpretation of civil liberties during a pandemic. And it seems that those who regularly grouse about the “illegality” of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 orders on Facebook pages like San Pedro Political Sense had the sense not to show up. Again, no arrests were made nor citations given by the handful of LAPD officers who stood guard at the entrance at White Point.
Another such demonstration won’t be necessary. Los Angeles County is planning on opening some beaches May 15 for passive recreation. White Point Nature Preserve was open right across the street on this day with social distancing guidelines.
— Chris Villanueva contributed to this report and supplied photos