San Francisco

Berkeley City Leaders Deny Permit for Planned Anti-Marxism Rally Sunday

Groups against Berkeley 'alt-right' rally' hold news conference

Berkeley city leaders on Thursday denied a permit for a group's anti-Marxism rally slated for Sunday.

In letter responding to a permit request submitted by rally organizer Amber Cummings, Deputy City Manager Jovan Grogan cited several city codes the group failed to meet with its application, including its lack of explanation for security arrangements and lack of coordinating emergency medical services.

Mayor Jesse Arreguin said he's made it clear the group planning the rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park is not welcome, but he expects it to take place anyway. He said the city is prepared.

"Anyone who threatens to engage in violence -- and we have seen from earlier events that this is exactly their intent -- will be arrested and punished to the fullest extent of the law," Arreguin said. "We urge residents to avoid the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on this day. The best way to silence the white nationalists is by turning your back on their message."

Last April, a similar rally led to violence. Berkeley police said they've learned from that event. While they won't release specifics they say they'll have a large police presence and will confiscate items that could be used as weapons.

During a community meeting late Thursday night, Berkeley police Chief Andrew Greenwood told neighbors he's doing all he can to keep the peace this weekend.

"People are concerned about the potential of violence, and of course any violence is upsetting to see," Greenwood said. "Our response really is to plan thoroughly, consider kind of the worst-case contingency, and be ready to scale up or down to just manage whatever comes our way."

For security reasons, the chief could not provide specifics about the department's preparations.

Meanwhile, organizers from several community groups gathered in Berkeley Thursday morning to discuss plans for the anti-hate rally this weekend.

People representing Black Lives Matter and racial justice made it clear during the news conference that white supremacists would not be welcomed in Berkeley and San Francisco. 

Group leaders also condemned Berkeley city officials and the National Park Service for welcoming the alt-right rally to the streets of their communities in the name of free speech.  

They argue that hate is not protected speech, especially when it incites the kind of violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“This is all being done in the false context of talking about free speech," said civil rights lawyer, Dan Siegel. "My point is that fascists don’t have free speech rights to incite violence or urge people to genocide.”

Organizers of the counter rallies denounced the white nationalist groups saying they would not be welcomed at the Sunday rally. 

"We don't have an option to not fight back; we have to stand against white nationalism, white power, white supremacy and fascism," said member of the Anti Police-Terror Project, Tur-Ha Ak. "We're not telling people what to do and what not to do."

Counter demonstrators said they plan to stay peaceful, but they don't expect those they'll be rallying against to do the same.

NBC Bay Area's Thom Jensen contributed to this report.

Contact Us