The claim: A Black Lives Matter protest at Huntington Beach had heavy police presence with smaller crowds while a coronavirus protest in the same area had a larger crowd with light police presence

A recent Facebook post compares two photos allegedly from recent protests in Huntington Beach, California. The first photo that claims to come from a beach closure protest appears to have larger crowds with no police, while a Black Lives Matter protest in the same area is shown to have a smaller crowd with police blocking off a main intersection.

The bottom of the photo is captioned, “1. Huntington beach, covid-19 protest 2. Huntington beach, black lives matter protest.”

Users noted their frustration with the differences in the photos commenting “one group brought weapons and one group didn’t…”

Another comment reads, “In so many other cases involving white protesters, police were there to protect and the protest was allowed to continue. In this case, the police shut it down as an ‘unlawful gathering.’ It’s a double standard.”

An image circulating on social media shows two different protest scenes in Huntington Beach, California.

The user who posted the photo did not respond to USA TODAY for comment.

Users on Instagram posted similar versions of the claim, saying “The racism is so blatant.” One sharing of the two photos on Twitter gained over 106,000 shares and over 260,000 likes.

Black Lives Matter protest deemed unlawful assembly

Hundreds demanded justice for George Floyd on Sunday in Huntington Beach, where protesters in a video by CBS Los Angeles can be seen peacefully protesting while police lined up and blocked off intersections.

The protest followed the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man who died after now-former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. The incident sparked outrage across the nation.

The Huntington Beach Police Department tweeted on the day of the protest that the gathering on the beach was an unlawful assembly and asked protesters to disperse.

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A Huntington Beach police spokeswoman told CBS Los Angeles that protesters were blocking traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway and four people were arrested. No looting had occurred as of 4 p.m., according to local authorities.

In a statement to CNN, police officials said the Black Lives Matter protest turned into an “unlawful assembly after protesters became violent with numerous assaults” and that 500 people were present at the protest.

The Huntington Beach Police Department did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment on the protests cited in the social media images.

An aerial video by ABC 7 confirms the authenticity of the crowds and police presence shown in the photo during the Black Lives Matter protest. According to the outlet, the protest was deemed unlawful due to conflicts with counter-protesters. 

More: ‘No rational basis for this action’: California governor’s beach closure order amid coronavirus sparks anger

Thousands protest beach closuresProtesters demonstrate against stay-at-home orders that were put in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Huntington Beach, Calif.

About a month before the Black Lives Matter protest, large crowds gathered in Huntington Beach to protest California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order that closed beaches in Orange County to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Police officials told CNN that between 2,500-3,000 people participated in the protests at Huntington Beach and enforcement of the beach closure was light because police officers did not have enough signage to affect a full closure.

One man at the protest said he walked past officers who were blocking the beach and asked officials if he was breaking the law. A police officer informed him that he was entering an unauthorized area but did not stop him from entering the beach, CNN reported.

More: California police officer under investigation, will be held ‘accountable’ for his actions against George Floyd protesters

The Orange County Register reported that the protest caused a halt in traffic but no arrests or citations were made. 

“A few dozen people remained on the sands during the nearby Huntington Beach protest. Police were making no effort to remove them from the beach,” the article reads. Many were also seen not wearing masks and chanting “My freedom is essential.”

A reverse Google search reveals that the image of the large crowds shown at the beach closure protest in the photo came from a video by ABC 7.

Our rating: True

We rate the comparison of the Huntington Beach Black Lives Matter protest and COVID-19 protest photos as TRUE because the claim is supported by our research. A search of the images confirms the authenticity of the photos shared on social media.

Numerous reports reveal that the beach closure protest that drew thousands did in fact take place at the Huntington Beach Pier on May 1 and police enforcement was light. Research also shows that the recent Black Lives Matter protest that had around 500 people in attendance was deemed an unlawful assembly by police and four arrests were made.

Our fact-check sources: 

CBS Los Angeles, May 31 YouTube Video

Huntington Beach Police Department, May 31 tweet

CBS LA, “Unlawful Assembly Declared In Huntington Beach After Protesters Block Traffic On PCH”

CNN, “In Huntington Beach, a George Floyd protest was deemed an unlawful assembly. A stay-at-home protest one month ago was not”

CNN, “Large crowds in Huntington Beach protest beach closures by California governor”

ABC 7 video, “Coronavirus crisis: Large crowds gather in Huntington Beach to protest Newsom stay-at-home orders amid COVID 19 pandemic”

ABC 7 video, “Orange County protests: Gatherings in Huntington Beach, Santa Ana broken up by police”

Orange County Register, “Thousands of protesters flock to Huntington Beach following state-ordered OC beach closures”

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Huntington Beach coronavirus, BLM protest photos are real


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