San Francisco Leaders Question Permit For Alt-Right Rally at Crissy Field, Seek Security Precautions From Park Service - NBC Bay Area
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San Francisco Leaders Question Permit For Alt-Right Rally at Crissy Field, Seek Security Precautions From Park Service

"You are not welcome here, don't come to San Francisco, we are going to do everything we can to stop you," Board of Supervisors president London Breed said

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Following the violence last weekend at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, San Francisco's city, state and federal officials today sent a strong message to organizers of a right-wing rally planned for later this month at Crissy Field. Sam Brock reports. (Published Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017)

    San Francisco is bracing for what could be the next battleground between protesters.

    Following the violence last weekend at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., local, state and federal officials on Tuesday sent a strong message to organizers of a right-wing rally planned for later this month at Crissy Field.

    "No, you are not welcome in San Francisco," Board of Supervisors president London Breed said. "You are not welcome here, don't come to San Francisco, we are going to do everything we can to stop you."

    Breed joined Mayor Ed Lee and police Chief Bill Scott in sending a letter to the National Park Service on Tuesday, expressing "outrage" over its decision to grant a permit to the group Patriot Prayer for an Aug. 26 rally. The park service has jurisdiction over Crissy Field, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

    The letter calls for the park service to impose conditions to ensure public safety and to provide assurances to the city that detailed security plans and measures will be in place.

    "San Francisco has a long and storied history of championing freedom of expression and First Amendment rights, but as we have witnessed in recent months, these types of rallies can quickly turn hateful and violent with tragic consequences," Lee said in the letter.

    He continued: "Events in Charlottesville and Seattle are proof that rallies such as these attract extreme and racist fringe groups who only want to provoke malice and incite brutality."

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also called for the park service to reconsider the permit.

    "Free speech does not grant the right to yell fire in a crowded theater, incite violence or endanger the public in any venue," Pelosi said in a statement.

    State Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymen Phil Ting and David Chiu sent letters to the park service expressing concerns about the rally.

    "As public officials we are used to differences in ideology, but the events in Charlottesville, complete with violence and protestors armed with automatic weapons, have moved us past any sense of civil discourse or peaceful assembly," that letter reads. "If this rally goes forward, we are extremely concerned for the public safety of the people of our city."

    National Park Service spokeswoman Sonja Hanson on Monday said the agency had issued a permit, and noted that the agency was required by law to grant such permits on First Amendment grounds.

    Hanson said that the agency is working with U.S. Park Police and San Francisco law enforcement to develop plans for security at the event, which organizers had said on their application would involve around 200 people.

    Park service officials did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment on the concerns raised by local elected officials.

    City officials said they had only learned of the event or the permit Monday. Scott said his department is in talks with the park service now to work out security details.

    "We will not tolerate violence in any form," Scott said.

    Patriot Prayer, which has been described as an alt-right group by the hate group watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center, has dubbed its event "Free Speech, Unity and Peace San Francisco."

    It is billed as "a day of freedom, spirituality, unity, peace, and patriotism!"

    "San Francisco has long been a city that prides itself in acceptance of all, so together, let's unite in this beautiful city to listen to some great speakers & live music!" the event's Facebook page states.

    Joey Gibson, the organizer of the Crissy Field Protest, told NBC Bay Area that the deadly violence in Charlottesville was reprehensible and conveyed a message that Patriot Prayer doesn't agree with.

    "I mean, I'm brown, for crying out loud!" he said. "You know, we have a black speaker, we have two Hispanics, we have a transsexual, we have a white woman. I mean our message is about freedom, and love, and peace.”

    Gibson said a Trump rally last year, where the president's supporters were assaulted, galvanized him to action. That's when he began organizing protests. The next one is in San Francisco because of its "intolerance," he said.

    “San Francisco is freaking out right now, which is legitimate because of what happened in Virginia," Gibson said. "But even if that didn’t happen, they’re still freaking out because people who are coming in are different from them, and they don’t understand them, so it makes them afraid.”

    There is no question the city is afraid that people meaning to do harm, will latch on to this protest as an opportunity.

    “We are a city (where) we love each other," said Shamman Walton, president of the San Francisco Board of Education. "We want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to be successful. But we also have to deal with some of these issues that are happening in other parts of the country. And how are we going to be the example?”

    Patriot Prayer held an event in Seattle on Sunday that was met with a heavy police presence and a large counter-protest. While police deployed pepper spray and worked to keep the groups separate, the event ultimately ended without major violence.

    Scheduled speakers at Aug. 26's event include right-wing figures associated with violent protests in Berkeley that took place in March and April, including "trans patriot" Amber Gwen Cummings and Kyle "Based Stickman" Chapman.

    The event is the first of two planned for the Bay Area, with a second one scheduled for Berkeley on Aug. 27. That event, hosted by Cummings on Facebook, is titled "No to Marxism in America," and will take place in Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park from 1 to 5 p.m.

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