Photo via Laguna Beach Police Department

He’s gotten death threats and hate mail, but the organizer of Sunday evening’s upcoming “America First” rally in Laguna Beach said his group is hoping to keep the gathering peaceful.

In the wake of the deadly violence in Charlottesville and President Trump’s controversial comments about the KKK and neo-Nazis, Orange County resident Johnny Benitez said the upcoming demonstration will be his group’s fifth gathering in Laguna Beach.

He said each time the demonstrations went off without incident.

“Last time, we had kids playing in the sand with glow sticks,” Benitez said. “I don’t think people feel comfortable coming with their kids this time.”

Since word of the demonstration got out following the violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, Benitez said he has received “death threats and hate mail.”

Some activists have rallied the troops on social media sites such as Facebook to organize a counter protest.

Sunday’s event is titled, “America First! Electric Vigil for the Victims of Illegals and Refugees.”

Benitez said the rallies focus attention on the “victims of refugees and illegals.

“Not just violent crime” victims, he said. “But all of the repercussions of people who came here who shouldn’t be here… I don’t see it as a refugee crisis — it’s a cheap labor scheme.”

Since his events have been violence-free in the past, if there are conflicts this time then, “We’ll know which elements made it happen,” he said.

Benitez said he doesn’t even want his group to argue with the counter protesters.

“I don’t even like to see the screaming matches,” Benitez said. “Hopefully, the police will do their jobs, which I believe they will… I’m assuming there won’t be violence, but you can’t really control it.”

Benitez said he’s mostly concerned about “the people in the black masks. They generally get confrontational right away… But we’re going to try to keep it violence free.

“A lot of our people are pro (President Donald) Trump.”

But, he added, “My faith has been shaken by the (Steven) Bannon” ouster on Friday.

“The firing of Bannon concerns me the most,” he said. “He was the most anti-globalist of his cabinet.”

Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Jim Cota told City News Service earlier in the week that he was confident his department could handle the demonstration.

About 80 people showed for the most recent rally on July 30, Cota said.

“We’re ready for this. They can bring out the whole world and we’ll be ready for them,” Cota said.

The department has many officers with deep experience in crowd control, Cota said.

“A majority of the people working on this are very tenured, so we know how to deal with them,” Cota said. “We’ve been having meetings daily and our Chief is very proactive.”

—City News Service

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