The Bay Area is grappling with how with to solve a problem like Nazis in the Marina, as two alt-right/white nationalist rallies are planned for next weekend in San Francisco and Berkeley. In the wake of one dead and 19 injured during this weekend’s tragedy in Charlottesville, California lawmakers are calling on the National Park Service to revoke the permit of the San Francisco rally. (That rally is scheduled to happen at Crissy Field, so it falls under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service). But that’s unlikely to happen considering who the National Park Service reports to, so officials around the bay are looking for other ways to prevent these likely-to-be-very-racist ragers.
SF Weekly reports on Mayor Ed Lee and Sup. London Breed’s joint press conference Tuesday, at which both urged the park service to revoke the rally permit from a group called Patriot Prayer. “We have demanded that the National Park Service re-evaluate this,” Mayor Lee said at the press conference. “You wouldn’t do this in such a cavalier fashion if you knew what was going to happen.”
Breed added, speaking to prospective rally attendees on the alt-right/white nationalist spectrum, "You are not welcome here. Don’t come to San Francisco. We’re going to do everything we can to stop you."
[Update: The National Park Service has issued a response clarifying that a final permit has not been issued. They say, "Our highest priority is to ensure public safety, while honoring our obligation to uphold one of our nation’s most cherished Constitutional rights, the First Amendment right to freedom of speech... We will make a final determination on the permit within the next seven business days based on the thorough public safety review."]
One of the featured speakers at the planned San Francisco rally is Kyle Chapman a.k.a. Based Stickman who, as the Chronicle points out, was one of the people arrested for violence at a March 4th “March 4 Trump” rally in Berkeley that predictably turned into a Punch 4 Trump slugfest. The Smoking Gun notes that Chapman “is a thrice-convicted felon who has served three separate prison terms, jumped bail, twice violated parole, used cocaine, LSD, and meth, and was described by his own lawyer as having ‘severe psychological problems.’” But hey, at least he didn't punch a girl!
Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson insisted to the LA Times this week that he has no affiliation with neo-Nazis and noted that scheduled speakers at the SF event include "a black man and a transgender woman."
Berkeley is also the target of a white nationalist rally “scheduled” (though without any permits) for Sunday, August 27. Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguín is trying to prevent that rally from happening, per the Daily Californian. Arreguín’s predicament is a little trickier, since no one has submitted any permit requests and the whole stupid thing is just a series of Facebook invites from what the mayor called an “amorphous group with no specific organizers”. The mayor urged Berkeley residents to ignore the rally and stay home, and that vowed that anyone committing violence would be arrested and prosecuted.
“I want to reiterate that we will not allow our community to be terrorized by a small band of white supremacists whose ideology of hate is a losing one,” Arreguín said in a statement. “Berkeley is proud of its multiculturalism and diversity, and we will continue to stand united against those who want to divide us.”
The issue is particularly thorny for new UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ, as her job entails being under attack from both sides on the safety vs. free speech debate. “We have not only an obligation to protect free speech but an obligation to keep our community safe,” Christ said in a Tuesday news conference “I’ve been working extensively with the police to plan for any disruptions that might occur.”
Christ gave additional remarks to CBS 5. “Were putting an enormous emphasis on safety and security,” she said. “Would I rather spend those dollars in different ways? Absolutely. I’d rather have more sections of computer science classes for undergraduates but it is critical for us to protect free speech and we will expend what we need to in order to do that.”
Setting an apparent example in this regard, the university has offered free use of Zellerbach Hall as the site for the off-again, on-again September 14 conservative pundit Ben Shapiro speech, according to the Daily Californian. The use of Zellerbach Hall is quite a concession, considering that venue has 2,000 seats and the Berkeley College Republicans had only a requested a 500-seat venue. Or it may be a deviously clever undermining of the request, as the “free” hall comes with security fee of as much as $9,000 a fee which the Berkeley College Republicans tell the Chronicle they can’t afford.
Such devious, clever underminings of the typical neo-Nazi/antifa cage match script may prove to be the best way to handle these potential violent clashes. “Alt-right rallies don’t always have a great turn out. In April, media flocked to People’s Park in Berkeley when more than 200 alt-right protesters gathered in a ‘freedom of speech’ rally,” Nuala Sawyer notes in SF Weekly. “Antifascists failed to show up, and instead of the expected brawl, the rally was peaceful and anticlimactic. All told, there were almost more media than alt-right defenders in attendance.”