Huntington Beach Police officials shut down a downtown area protest Sunday afternoon, calling it an unlawful assembly, less than an hour after protesters gathered to voice their objection to the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis last week.

Police shut down the protest just as counterprotesters gathered, which triggered escalating tensions between both groups.  

“So we had an active protest that has now turned to an unlawful assembly,” HB police spokeswoman Angela Bennett said. “We estimate the crowd is around 500.” 

“We don’t have counter protesting specifics — we know that tensions are high and people are arguing with each other but we don’t have a specific on who is who,” Bennett said. “We declared the unlawful assembly at 1300 hours and that was due to tensions rising, people yelling at each other and people blocking traffic on PCH.”

Bennett said no arrests were made as of almost 2 p.m. Sunday and there were no “incidents” 

Counter protesters showed up and confronted the demonstrators who were demanding justice for Floyd’s killing. 

People from both sides poured on to Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway and confronted each other, according to social media posts and videos.  

An alert sent to the public around the intersection of Main and Pacific Coast Highway on May 31. Credit: JOSE HERNANDEZ, Voice of OC

Bennett said the unlawful assembly declaration was made around 1 p.m.

Protests are also slated in San Clemente and Santa Ana today, following a series of demonstrations Saturday.

Sunday’s demonstrations follow a host of nationwide protests over the past few days, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. 

On Saturday, protestors in Orange, Fullerton and Santa Ana joined the national outcry over the Minneapolis police killing of Floyd and video of a white officer named Derek Chauvin pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck while other officers looked on without intervening. 

His knee was on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, according to video footage. 

Floyd pleaded with officers and said “I can’t breathe.” 

Some of Floyd’s last words have become a mantra for protests everywhere, with chants of “I can’t breathe” while many demonstrators hold signs sporting the same plea. 

Protests in Orange and Fullerton on Saturday were largely peaceful, along with Santa Ana during the day. But as night set in, some people began shooting fireworks and hurling objects at police. There was also some looting of a business center. 

By morning, residents began to clean up the debris. They were joined by City Councilmen Juan Villegas, Vicente Sarmiento, Phil Bacerra and David Penaloza. 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio. 

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