The San Diego Police Department said Wednesday the organizer of a weekend rally in downtown San Diego against California's "stay at home" order will be cited for violating the county's public health mandates.
Hundreds of people gathered on the streets of downtown San Diego, many without following social distancing rules and without wearing recommended face coverings, to protest the order that has stunted the state's economy while slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Many held signs urging Governor Gavin Newsom to reopen businesses. Others said the order was a violation of their freedoms.
One alleged protester named Naomi Soria, Identified herself Wednesday as the protester who would be arrested for the protest. NBC 7 reached out to Soria but has not yet received a comment about the charge.
SDPD did not name the person being charged with a misdemeanor, a charge that comes with up to a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail. The department also said it would be up to the City Attorney's office to decide if the protester would face a $1,000 penalty or six months in jail.
SDPD Lt. Shawn Takeuchi said the 27-year-old protester was not charged on the day of the rally because they were respecting the rights of people to peacefully protest. But the department did recognize it was a violation of the county's public health order, which restricts public gatherings, mandates people to stay indoors except to conduct essential functions and orders people to maintain social distancing when away from home.
The Center for American Liberty said they would defend the protester against the citation. They argue that their client did adhere to social distancing guidelines during the protest.
"The charged protester had shared information about the protest on social media, which may have led to the authorities deciding to single her out for punishment," a statement from the law center read.
Photos: San Diegans Against Stay-at-Home Order Protest Downtown
The gathering was one of dozens across the country protesting regulations that ordered Americans to stay inside and only go out for essential needs in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Some states have already started to ease restrictions, following mounting pressure. But last week, Newsom said he won't consider loosening that order until hospitalizations, particularly those in intensive care units, flatten and start to decline for at least two weeks. Tuesday, Newsom announced intensive care hospitalizations rose 3.8%.
Other indicators Newsom says he is monitoring include whether the state has adequate protective gear for health care workers, better treatment for the disease and expanded testing.
San Diego County health officials leaders of local municipalities are taking steps to develop criteria that will be implemented when the state's stay at home order becomes less restrictive. The goal is to slowly east businesses and residents into a new normal, according to supervisors.
For the time being, the county public health order remains in effect.
“We don’t want to throw away all the progress that’s been made. We don’t want to throw away all the sacrifices and we don’t want to end up in a bad situation,” Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said on Friday. “We want to sure we do this right, so we have to continue to be on a solid footing."