After a week in which multiple local and state lawmakers urged them to deny the alt-right/conservative group Patriot Prayer a permit to gather at San Francisco's Crissy Field this Saturday, the National Park Service issued a statement Wednesday confirming that the final permit had been issued for the 2 p.m. event.
"The National Park Service has a long and proud tradition of being the site of peaceful expressions of people’s views under the First Amendment to the US Constitution which guarantees everyone the right to gather together and express their opinions non-violently," said Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) Acting General Superintendent Cicely Muldoon. "We cannot deny a permit to anyone planning to exercise their First Amendment rights based on their political stance or beliefs."
Crissy Field, which is part of the federally controlled GGNRA, sits just south of the Golden Gate Bridge.
She clarified that they could have denied the permit based on public safety concerns something that Mayor Ed Lee, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and multiple others strongly urged them to do but Muldoon said it seemed as though public safety would be served better by allowing it to be a permitted event.
“After consultation with other law enforcement colleagues, including the San Francisco Police Department, National Park Service law enforcement believe that whether a permit is issued or not, many people will come to Crissy Field on Aug. 26 to express their opinions,” she said. “Law enforcement advised that issuing a permit will increase their ability to ensure public safety."
Lee and state senator Scott Wiener quickly issued statements expressing their displeasure with the decision.
"The shameful, anti-American trend of hate-filled extremist rallies will unfortunately be allowed to continue this weekend in our city," Lee said. "Let us show this nation that San Francisco is a city of peace and unity. Do not engage with the members of this group, whose only priority is to incite violence through divisive rhetoric."
Lee told local station KPIX on Tuesday, anticipating this decision, that the city and police would take a lesson from Boston from last Saturday, where a heavy police presence and many fences kept right-wing ralliers and counter-protesters apart.
Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson has repeatedly insisted over the last two weeks that he himself is not a white supremacist (he is not white himself), and that a diverse array of speakers are planned for the event, which he insists will just be about conservative viewpoints and "free speech." But, somewhat disingenuously, Gibson continues to deny that by hosting his rallies he creates magnets for far-right-wing zealots eager to do battle with the "antifa," whom they define as anyone on the left who angrily confronts them.
In a post to Facebook yesterday, Gibson wrote, "Please, if your [sic] on the left speak out against these hate groups. Antifa doesn't even care about fighting 'racists'. They want to fight the republic as a whole."
While he disowns all neo-Nazi and white supremacy talk and claims no such people will be "allowed" at his rally, Gibson continues to have a major vendetta against left-wing activists some of whom appear to have cost the Washington-state-based Gibson his job in June, according to the Portland Mercury.
Lee is urging everyone who wishes to protest to take part in the peaceful rally and dance party that will be happening in Civic Center Saturday beginning at noon. Scheduled speakers and performers currently include Cleve Jones, Kate Kendall, Michael Franti, Marga Gomez, Brothers Comatose, DJ Brian Kent, BeBe Sweetbriar, Momma's Boyz, and MC Ron Owens from KGO radio. It's one of multiple planned counter-demonstrations.
Pelosi issued her own statement saying, "We must all pray [the event] does not become an invitation to incite violence."
Scott Wiener also urged people to head to Civic Center or the simultaneous rally in the Castro that will likely converge on Civic Center, noting that Patriot Prayer rallies tend to attract armed members of the militia group known as Oath Keepers. "I’m disappointed that the National Park Service is allowing a potentially volatile situation to go forward," Wiener said in his statement. "Now that the decision is final, our focus needs to shift toward ensuring that public safety is maintained at Crissy Field and that San Francisco sends a powerful, non-violent message of love in response to the message of hate being propagated by these right-wing extremist groups."
On Tuesday, the SFPD confirmed that the entire police force would be called on duty to handle Saturday's rally, despite the fact that federal park police will be taking the lead on safety for the event.
The event, which along with a planned Sunday, August 27 rally in Berkeley, appeared to have been scheduled as Facebook events over the same weekend that violence erupted around the Unite the Right event in Charlottesville. The tense Sunday after Charlottesville, Gibson hosted a Patriot Prayer rally in downtown Seattle that attracted hundreds of counter-protesters, some of whom engaged in fights with rally attendees in the street.
This marks the first time that a right-wing group has tried to stage one of these events in San Francisco since the election. Two previous rallies by similar groups in Berkeley, in March and Chapman was just charged with a felony in connection to those events, where he allegedly came armed with a leaded stick and was seen engaging in violence with counter-protesters.
Previously: Dog Owners To Dump Poop On Crissy Field Ahead Of Rally; Organizer Tells Fox He's Not A White Supremacist
Alt-Right Wants Photo Op Of Battle Royale With Golden Gate Bridge As Backdrop And The Left Should Not Give It To Them