In the run-up to the July Fourth weekend, the city of Monterey shut down its beaches to all activities except water sports and imposed a mandatory face covering order. In Carmel, the city ordered the beach closed in advance of expected crowds that in previous weeks had mostly ignored mask, distancing and closure orders.
And on July 3, a Silicon Valley engineer named Jay Endsley went around a barrier at Carmel Beach and headed down the dunes to take a walk with his dog. Endsley was videotaped ignoring a beach volunteer who told him the beach was closed; when police arrived, according to Chief Paul Tomasi, Endsley walked up the beach one way, then back the other way as officers walked alongside him and tried to talk him into leaving. When they gave up and arrested him, Tomasi says Endsley fought with officers at the water’s edge, resulting in officers getting soaked.
And Theresa Buccola, a Carmel-based stained glass artist who had never seen Endsley before in her life, was arrested along with him after she came to his defense.
Endsley is not a dumb guy. For 20 years he directed digital camera development at Eastman Kodak Co., then forged a career as an engineering consultant. The day of his arrest, he was charged with a pair of misdemeanors – unauthorized entry of a closed disaster area and resisting an officer. Buccola got the same unauthorized entry charge, as well as possessing tear gas.
At the time of the arrests, I reached out to them both. Endsley said he wanted to talk about it, once the case was over.
Now the case is over, for Endsley anyway. In exchange for prosecutors dropping the two misdemeanor charges, he pleaded no contest to a simple infraction, trespassing in an area with a posted sign. He reached out to me to offer his side of the story.
It’s a simple and defiant side. “I believe the beach closure ordered by City [Administrator] Chip Rerig was unlawful,” Endsley writes. “Beach access cannot be restricted on a whim by local officials. Any closure must be lawful. This is a right so important that it was written into the California Constitution. We the people have a duty to disobey unlawful actions by our public officials.”
Buccola’s tale is a little more complicated, and it’s by no means over. There’s a warrant out for her arrest, dated July 31, for failing to appear at arraignment. She doesn’t want to talk about it, she says, but some like-minded friends served Monterey County Health Officer Edward Moreno, Sheriff Steve Bernal, Carmel Mayor Dave Potter and Rerig and Tomasi with a notice that if they interfered with people going to Carmel Beach on Labor Day weekend, they would sue.
Sure enough, Potter says, he received the notice, notarized and placed on his office door over Labor Day weekend. Rerig was served at home by “two thuggy-looking guys,” Potter says, including one whose car ended up being towed because he parked in front of a fire hydrant, and then couldn’t get it back from impound because his anti-government sentiment includes not having a driver’s license or vehicle registration.
From the opening paragraph: “Be advised that on Monday, Sept. 7 of this year, 2020, and every day and night preceding and succeeding, all those named in this notice and others will be exercising their God-given and constitutionally protected rights by visiting and remaining on any park or beach of their choosing as they see fit.” Later, it adds, “Parroting, mimicking and repeating lies about ‘a pandemic’ does not make it so.”
I can’t begin to figure out how to argue with people who put “a pandemic” in quote marks in a letter warning public officials about the consequences of trying to keep people safe from themselves while simultaneously invoking God. So I asked Potter why Carmel had become a flashpoint for this kind of behavior.
“It’s a desire to get attention, positive or negative,” he says. “It’s kind of annoying that our citizenry wants to be protected and then they come in.”
Or, as Buccola puts it, “We walked down to the beach and reopened it [on Labor Day]. There was a cop there and as soon as my friends and I arrived on the beach, he left in a hurry and we called to the crowd behind the police barrier and let them know the beach was open.”