Denial, Anger, and No Acceptance
Huntington Beach, CA has always been known as the Surf Capital of the West Coast. A place of long, pristine beaches, a place with a photogenic pier just off the main drag, it’s also a place with a long history of reactionary politics and violence. That on June 20th, 2020, it was also the location of one of the biggest pro-cop “protests” in California is no surprise to those who live around here; it’s always been the headquarters of conservatism in Orange County if not the entire State of California.
The fliers had been put out- at noon, June 20th, the “silent majority” or as any objective observer would call the “not so quiet minority of obnoxious reactionaries”, would stand up to the “abuse” the police had been suffering for finally being called out for the egregious crimes/silence of the “thin blue line”. They staked out their position on the side of PCH closest to the surf shops and tourist traps; they could be seen a mile away by their American flags and their Trump banners. Walking amongst them was like walking into diner scene of “Easy Rider”, updated for the Covid-19 era. No masks were on their side because they were too good for it.
On the other side of the PCH, closest to the pier itself, was the true heart of the majority. Black Lives Matter, and their supporters, came right into the heart of the decrepit remains of Reagan Country, ready to stand up for the truth against hysteria.
The pro-Police side was chanting “USA” “USA” the moment I arrived. They thought they had a monopoly on patriotism, but they were wrong. The Black Lives Matter side, the side with a mixed demographic, younger people, people actively looking to make things better for themselves; they didn’t relinquish the patriot card to the Pro-Police Protest. They had their own flags, their own chants of “USA”, mixed in with the usual chants of the BLM movement- No Fascist USA, No Racist Police.
It was a twitchy atmosphere. Recall Gavin Newsome signs could be seen on both sides of the Pacific Coast Highway, a ridiculous libertarian measure brought forth because Gavin Newsome had the temerity to value human life over business profits. His choice to close many businesses on a temporary basis as a health measure was for the reactionary right a cardinal sin; he needed to be crucified for such a thing. One sign carrier enraged the crowd for a few brief moments by stating something racist, just another human symptom of a systemic disease where capital is sacrosanct and a Governor trying to minimize the body count from Covid-19 was a heretic.
The BLM counter protest to the pro-police made sure on a constant basis to avoid engaging even when provoked, and there was a lot of provocations from the pro-police side. The pro-police side had the traditional “Karen” in internet speak come over and engage, stating how a mixed group of blacks, whites, Latinos, young and old were the true racists next to the overwhelmingly not mixed group of pro-police protesters waving fascist iconography of “punisher skull” flags. A man on a bicycle rode up and starting to lecture the entire BLM crowd about how they didn’t understand socialism and that they didn’t know what it meant to become rich despite many of the crowd being more well off then he had realized; a Latino woman from the pro-police had to inform the BLM crowd that Obama was really behind everything and that he never did anything for anyone at any time in Chicago. The man on the bicycle was shamed into leaving after a full moment of being told from a woman of color how horrible Huntington Beach could be to a woman of color, her awful experiences of being regularly called the n-word during the last few years; the Latino woman left after her outburst. Throughout the entire experience the police, who in nearly every conversation between themselves seemed more interested in whatever place would placate them with a free lunch, stood about watching without publicly mandated masks despite Orange County’s escalating Covid-19 rate — long gone were the riots cops in armor of just a couple of protests past, replaced by regular officers. They were watched by the green hats of the National Lawyers Guild, who made it clear why they were there: to watch the police, and to help with anyone unfairly arrested and detained. The police were wary of the green hats who milled about- as a national organization of lawyers and paralegals, they could help the poor soul sucked into the bureaucracy of the Huntington Beach Police Department. At random moments, a protester for Black Lives Matters entertained his side of the PCH with an auto-tune machine that turned every word of his into an eerie synthetic song.
The protest went for quite a while, and I left. For the pro-police, it was a tale of being in absolute denial that the people that they had sanctified, every law enforcement officer, were perhaps part of a greater systemic problem. The pro-police protesters were angry that anyone had the temerity to bring up the massive and obvious shortcomings of the modern police force. One hopes that those protesting on the behalf of this belief that a police officer can do no wrong will come to terms with the fact that yes, their “America”, one structured upon systemic injustice, ultra-violence, racism, and fascism, was dying, but like anyone who knows the five stages of grief, acceptances is perhaps the last and hardest stage to reach.