America First! rally canceled, but more than 100 Laguna Beach police officers show up – just in case – Orange County Register

LAGUNA BEACH –  Even though the America First! rally planned for Sunday, Sept. 24, was canceled, the heavy law enforcement presence at Main Beach Park left some people in town wondering if the rally that drew more than 2,300 people last month was back on.

By 1 p.m., dozens of police officers from departments such as Irvine, Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Newport Beach, Orange and Westminster were staged in a parking lot adjacent to Main Beach. An armored vehicle parked at the ready. Police squads walked the beach and boardwalk until about 6 p.m.

Additional units from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were staged in other parts of town. Those included mounted units and dog teams. Heavy-duty barricades were set up along the sidewalk of Main Beach to prevent a vehicle from getting onto the sidewalk.

By 3:30 p.m., a handful of counterprotesters showed up on the boardwalk carrying handheld banners saying “Resist” and “Impeach.” They engaged some people but did not cause any issues, said Sgt. Jim Cota.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” he said.

The law enforcement presence, while less than the Aug. 20 even when 300 police officers showed up and four people were arrested, was a message from Laguna Beach police Chief Laura Farinella that she and her department won’t tolerate disruption and violence in the seaside town.

While police had verbal confirmation from organizer Johnny Benitez that plans for Sunday’s rally were canceled, Farinella and her department were not sure the message had spread to all other associated or counterprotest groups.

Officials in Laguna Beach say that Benitez has confirmed he will hold another America First! rally at Main Beach on Oct. 22.

In that rally, he said, he…

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