Laguna Beach police ramping up for rally, counter protest on Sunday

LAGUNA BEACH – Police are gearing up for Sunday evening when a group called America First! plans to rally against illegal immigration on Main Beach and likely draw counter-protesters.

“We’re expecting a couple hundred but that could increase by the hour, the day and even over the weekend,” Laguna Beach Sgt. Jim Cota said. “We’re also expecting counter-protesters who plan to bring plenty of people with them.”

Representatives of both sides have told police they will show up.

The city’s Police Department is holding daily meetings, gathering information and making plans for a strong police presence. Officers from neighboring cities as well as from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department will be on hand as well, the sergeant said.

“This is a serious, serious thing,” said Mayor Toni Iseman. “We are a community that embraces diversity. We are the quintessential opposite of their core values,” she said of America First!

The groups are expected to stage at Main Beach at 6:30 p.m. The counter protesters will be kept in the sandy area of the park near Coast Highway and Broadway Street, while the America First! protesters will be kept farther to the south on the grass.

To march, a permit would be required and neither side had requested one.

Sundays in Laguna draw thousands to this seaside town, especially at the height of the festival season.

“Residents have told us they support us and that we should stay safe,” Cota said. “We’re telling everyone to go about their normal day on Sunday. Shop in the shops, go to the restaurants and the beach. It should be business as usual.”

The mayor wants locals to keep away from the rally and counter-protest so calmness prevails.

“If people want to shop and go to the restaurants, that’s fine but don’t cross the Coast Highway,” she said.

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