Group of Long Beach demonstrators protest business restrictions amidst coronavirus pandemic

Jesus+Cisneros%2C+a+local+organizer%2C+%28bottom+right%29+with+fellow+protesters+demonstrating+for+an+end+to+California%27s+stay+at+home+order+on+Saturday%2C+May+9.+Among+protesters+demands+were+the+reopening+of+all+businesses+and+the+beach.

Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune

Jesus Cisneros, a local organizer, (bottom right) with fellow protesters demonstrating for an end to California's stay at home order on Saturday, May 9. Among protesters demands were the reopening of all businesses and the beach.

A handful of demonstrators rallied by the Lone Sailor memorial along Ocean Boulevard on Saturday, May 9 and called upon Long Beach officials to further open the economy amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The protesters held signs that read “Freedom over Fear” and “Open the Beaches” and encouraged motorists driving by to honk their horns to show their support.

The social-distancing restrictions, put into effect statewide by Governor Gavin Newsom and locally by Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, are still in place for the majority of local businesses in an effort to protect the public’s health as Los Angeles County regularly reports more cases of infected.

Earlier this week, Newsom loosened the state’s stay-at-home orders and allowed for some businesses such as flower shops, toy stores and limited retail stores to reopen via curb-side pick up.

Garcia followed suit in Long Beach as part of the City’s Stage 2 of the reopening process. Starting May 11, public spaces, such as beaches, hiking trails, parks and tennis courts, will also open to the public.

Some Orange County cities have disputed the restrictions, with Huntington Beach protesters earlier this month calling the virus a hoax, and demanding for the social-distancing restrictions to be lifted.

Although Saturday’s protest organizer, and former 2nd District Council candidate, Jesus Cineros understands the severity of the virus, he told the Signal Tribune that people have reached out to him telling them they are desperate for work, and that the city can’t afford the restrictions on businesses for much longer.

“I’m thinking, ‘Wow, if I’m spending $300 to $400 every couple of weeks on food, I wonder how much other people are spending,’” he said, “and they can’t apply for government help.”

While the coronavirus has been a major public-health crisis globally–– infecting over 1 million and causing over 200,000 deaths as of press time–– the virus also brought with it an economic hardship not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

According to the Department of Labor, there have been over 33 million claims of unemployment–– a number that dwarfs unemployment claims made during the 2008 recession.

A detailed study from the University of Chicago showed that the most heavily impacted market was that of low-wage employees.

“This recession is amplifying income inequality given that the employment losses are so disproportionately concentrated at the lower end of the income distribution,” the report read.

Census data from 2017 showed the average income for residents in central and north Long Beach ranges from $34.1k to $67.2k, with a cost of living that is 43% higher than the national average, according to a salary-report website called PayScale. The spread of the coronavirus has only added a layer of uncertainty across the city’s economic outlook.

The Long Beach City Council is projecting an estimated $40 million loss in revenue this year, and Signal Hill is anticipating a significant hit to its sales-tax revenue because of the virus.

Saturday’s protest was meant to echo that sense of economic concern, according to Cisneros.

“It’s awesome, they gave us a stimulus check, I’m grateful for that,” Cisneros said. “But how far does $1,000 go? How far does $2,000 go? That barely covers the rent.”