A rally for freedom of speech and against Big Tech — with the angle that conservative viewpoints and Trump supporters face bias on platforms like Twitter — is indeed happening tomorrow, October 17, but not in Dolores Park as originally planned.
SFist previously reported on the rally, organized by Philip Anderson — a young Black man from Mesquite, Texas who supports Donald Trump, is hostile to the the Black Lives Matter movement, and is misguidedly angry about "free speech" being stifled — but like many previous such events organized by alt-right and right-wing figures in San Francisco it seemed unlikely that it was actually a real thing. But now San Francisco Rec & Parks has confirmed that the event has been issued a permit with a 200-person maximum capacity for 1 p.m. in United Nations Plaza — and this seems likely to lead to a protest of some kind outside Twitter headquarters.
The originally planned event in Dolores Park, which sparked an immediate call to action from Berkeley Antifa, never had a permit — and Rec & Parks said no permit would ever be issued for such an event because the park is generally too crowded as it is. A subsequent protest had originally planned for later in the afternoon outside Twitter HQ, but now the rally and protest can theoretically happen side by side, if this doesn't all devolve into violence and get shut down by the cops.
Anderson claims among his list of speakers for the rally Enrique Tarrio, the current head of the Proud Boys hate group which has a stated mission of being "western chauvinists" but insists that isn't racist; frequent SF mayoral candidate Starchild; and recent SF mayoral candidate who paid for a racist billboard about London Breed, Ellen Lee Zhou. There are also a bunch of fringe people and conservative social media figures with more followers on Parler than on Twitter, if they're on Twitter at all, and several of them have been chattering about the absurdity of Berkeley Antifa assuming that they are racist. But if you support Trump... it's not a big leap.
Free Speech RALLY and PROTEST against Twitter & Big Tech - Oct. 17th in United Nations Plaza, San Francisco, California!— Philip Anderson (@TeamSaveAmerica) October 16, 2020
SAVE FREE SPEECH !!!!
🚨EVERYONE🚨 Register to confirm attendance NOW: https://t.co/CTYkOV8h4K pic.twitter.com/j6eK48w17w
On Thursday, Anderson was retweeting Trump who was angry at Twitter for freezing his campaign's @TeamTrump account briefly for a violation of rules, and who claimed that a Twitter outage last night was done on purpose to help the Biden campaign.
I’ve been right the entire time. It’s time to #ProtestBigTech NOW!!!— Philip Anderson (@TeamSaveAmerica) October 16, 2020
Free Speech RALLY and PROTEST against Twitter & Big Tech - Oct. 17th in United Nations Plaza, San Francisco, California!
🚨EVERYONE🚨confirm attendance NOW: https://t.co/CTYkOUQFGa https://t.co/SUmE8p6yVj
Further, Anderson posted a photo of himself this morning, wearing a mask, on an airplane saying he is en route to San Francisco. "I NEVER LIE," he writes.
Anderson has a scant 2,247 followers on Twitter, and the turnout among conservatives at this rally may be similarly small. Anderson can be seen in another Twitter video in an unidentified city appearing to yell at Black Lives Matter protesters to stop "burning down your city," and he seems especially passionate about the idea — touted often by conservatives — that "free speech is being destroyed" by the likes of Twitter when they crack down on rule violations by right-wing and alt-right figures.
There is a strong likelihood that counter-protesters will outnumber actual attendees at Anderson's "Team Save America" rally. Berkeley Antifa and Antifa International has been putting out the word to their followers to "Kick the Proud Boys Out of SF!" So, a skirmish is more than possible.
Avoid the area! Everyone. Seriously. There is no reason to give these people the pleasure of further attention, but you've been warned.
Saturday 10/17 event has been moved from Dolores Park to Civic Center. Spread the word and make sure everyone knows the new location!!!!!!!! 🖤❤️ pic.twitter.com/5O1NKKToHE— Berkeley Antifa (@berkeleyantifa) October 16, 2020
"The First Amendment ensures the right to assemble for everyone and the permit process is in place to allow for planning, to minimize disruptions and to create basic safety measures," writes SF Rec & Parks spokesperson Tamara Aparton, in an email to SFist. "The San Francisco Police Department will be implementing all safety measures for this event."