A “White Lives Matter” demonstration at Huntington Beach’s pier was outnumbered by counterprotesters on April 11. The rally, intending to advocate white pride and supremacy, ended with the arrest of 12 people and no serious injuries.
While it is unclear who organized the rally, speculations suggest a possible connection to the Ku Klux Klan flyers found on residents’ doorsteps the previous Easter Sunday, which featured confederate flags, the words “White Lives Do Matter” and a hooded figure urging the “Royal White Knights” to protect white heritages.
Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr’s inbox was flooded with emails from residents who were offended by the white supremacists’ leaflets and their “hate speech.” Carr denounced the KKK flyers in a public statement.
The protest was largely outnumbered by counterprotesters who gathered before the start of the White Lives Matter rally to voice their opposition against racism and white supremacy. No serious injuries occurred despite clashes between the two groups.
The Huntington Beach Police Department declared an unlawful assembly to disperse the crowd after it grew to an estimated 500 people at 2:36 p.m. The police arrested 12 people under various charges including carrying weapons, disturbing the peace and fighting in public.
The city hosted a virtual “Hate Free HB” event at the same time as the rally to promote diversity and unity.
“We can’t stop people from coming to the pier, and we’re not going to be able to stop people from hiding behind the 1st Amendment to spew hateful rhetoric that’s really divisive in our community,” Carr said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “[B]ut what we can do is counter it with these types of events.”
However, experts who track extremist movements say that the truth could be more complex; they warned about the danger of naive optimism perceived among some residents and activists who view the outnumbering of protesters at the rally as a definitive victory.
Moreover, according to Anti-Defamation League in Orange County and Long Beach Regional Director Peter Levi, the outnumbering of these protesters could contribute to the resurgence of the right-wing extremist movements.
“It feeds into the agenda that white men no longer have constitutional rights. They try to assemble, and they can’t assemble. They try to have free speech, and they can’t,” Levi said in an interview with the LA Times.
Ellie Zhang is a City News Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.