Donald Trump

‘America's First' Anti-Illegal Immigration Rally Held in Laguna Beach

The organizer said his group's rallies focus attention on the "victims of refugees and illegals"

Hundreds of people divided between a crowd rallying against illegal immigration and a throng of counter-protesters opposing their stance squared off Sunday along the Laguna Beach shoreline.

The "America First'' event that started at 6 p.m. and continued into twilight was mostly peaceful, although one arrest was made at the scene.

On the anti-illegal immigration side, organizer Johnny Benitez of Orange County said the group hoped to keep the gathering -- their fifth rally in Laguna Beach -- peaceful. All of the group's previous demonstrations went off without incident.

Police weren't taking any chances, however, with nearly 100 officers from five different agencies on the site of the confrontation at Broadway and Pacific Coast Highway.

Several local businesses boarded up their storefronts as a precaution.

Throughout the rally, there were some verbal confrontations but no physical ones reported.

Tensions were high since plans for the "America First'' gathering were announced following the Aug. 12 violence at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Benitez said he had received "death threats and hate mail,'' but the group moved forward with the rally anyway.

The organizer said his group's rallies focus attention on the "victims of refugees and illegals." 

"Not just violent crime'' victims, he said. "But all of the repercussions of people who came here who shouldn't be here. I don't see it as a refugee crisis -- it's a cheap labor scheme." 

A number of those protesting illegal immigration were wearing "Make America Great Again'' hats and flying red flags. They talked about the need to represent and honor victims of violence at the hands of illegal immigrants as well as the burden they said undocumented people can place on the economy.

Counter-protestors waved signs with messages such as "Hate will never make us great'' and "The future is inclusive.'' They tied ribbons around trees and lampposts and a peace sign was constructed on the beach from seaweed.

Today's event was preceded by a Saturday gathering in the same location that called for unity in Laguna Beach.

"Laguna Beach doesn't (just) tolerate diversity - we embrace diversity,'' Mayor Toni Iserman told Saturday's crowd, according to the Orange County Register.

Laguna Beach police Sgt. Jim Cota, in an interview with City News Service prior to the rally, said he was confident his department could handle the demonstration.

"We're ready for this," he said, noting that a pro-active approach was taken using officers with deep experience in crowd control. "They can bring out the whole world and we'll be ready for them." 

Copyright CNS - City News Service
Contact Us