Huntington Beach is bracing for a white supremacy rally set to take place Sunday at the seaside community’s famous pier, which has become a rallying spot for numerous demonstrations over the last year.
The so-called White Lives Matter rally, which was advertised via social media, is one of several such demonstrations scheduled across the country.
Authorities have not been able to confirm with organizers that the demonstration is definitely taking place, said Lt. Brian Smith of the city’s Police Department.
It comes after fliers with Ku Klux Klan propaganda were delivered to homes in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Long Beach in recent weeks. Police do not believe the same people are responsible for the fliers and the rally, Smith said.
The Huntington Beach Police Department plans to step up its security presence, with mounted units and helicopters on hand, Smith said.
“Every rally that we have there’s always the possibility for some violence to occur,” he said. “That’s always a concern for us regardless of what the group is or the positions they’re taking are.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will provide support to Huntington Beach with its regional mounted unit, said Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the department.
“That’s the extent of our involvement at this time,” she said. “We are monitoring open-source information to monitor additional events in our jurisdiction, but at this time we aren’t aware of any.”
A counterprotest organized by a local grass-roots group called Black Lives Matter Huntington Beach has been scheduled at 11 a.m. at Pier Plaza.
For years, Huntington Beach has tried to challenge its reputation as a magnet for right-wing or extremist protest.
Those efforts weren’t helped last year when the city’s downtown and pier became a rallying spot for anti-mask activists and far-right supporters of then-President Trump.
Huntington Beach, a solidly Republican city of nearly 200,000, has been grappling with these issues for decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, racist skinheads roamed the city attacking minorities.
Sunday’s event — which arrives after a smattering of Ku Klux Klan fliers were distributed in Huntington Beach and surrounding areas — is sparking new demands that the city take more profound steps to shake its association with right-wing extremism.
The 1 p.m. rally, organized by the Loyal White Knights, has prompted some community members to plan counterdemonstrations and to plead with public officials to intervene.
“These groups will continue to come back unless the larger community stands against them,” said Mary Adams Urashima, a Huntington Beach resident and historian. “That has always been the case, historically, wherever the Klan or white supremacy shows up.”
“I made a call-out to everybody and anybody around the city that cares at all — and there are a lot of people that care,” Black Lives Matter Huntington Beach founder Tory Johnson said of his group’s counterprotest. “We need to show that Huntington Beach will no longer tolerate racism in any way, shape or form. This will not be a reflection of our city.”
Meanwhile, the Huntington Beach City Council at its meeting this week denounced hate speech and white supremacy. The city is also hosting a virtual “Day of Unity” at the same time as the White Lives Matter rally.
“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,” Mayor Kim Carr said, “but what we can do is counter it with these types of events.”