What You Need to Know About This Weekend's Far-Right Rallies
Clashes broke out between far-right protesters and counter-demonstrators at the so-called "Battle of Berkeley" on April 15, 2017. (Bert Johnson/KQED)
Updates Saturday, Aug. 26, 11:30 a.m.:
The San Francisco Police Department limited access to Alamo Square Park Saturday, where the far-right Patriot Prayer group had planned a press conference. It comes after the Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson scrapped a rally they had scheduled for Saturday at Crissy Field.
Counterprotests against the original rally are still planned at Alamo Square Park, Civic Center Plaza and in the Castro District.
KQED has also confirmed that Amber Cummings, organizer of the "No to Marxism" rally planned for Sunday in Berkeley, has canceled that rally.
Update Friday, Aug. 25, 9:00 p.m.: The National Park Service has confirmed that Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer has relinquished his permit for his Crissy Field event.
"Crissy Field will be open for public use on Saturday,” said Cicely Muldoon, Acting General Superintendent of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in a statement on Friday night. “We thank the community for your patience over the last week and your continued support of the Presidio.”
The NPS says there will be no road closures as previously planned and that businesses at Crissy Field and the Presidio Main Post will be allowed to reopen. The Presidio Visitor Center and Fort Point National Historic Site will remain closed, along with other "park-operated visitor facilities."
City officials in Berkeley have released a long list of banned items that will not be allowed at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park where a far-right rally is planned for Sunday. These items include firearms, metal pipes, bats, pepper spray, knives, shields and "any other item that is generally considered an 'implement of riot' that can be used as a weapon."
Also banned is "the wearing of a mask, scarf, bandana or any other accessory or item that covers or partially covers the face and shields the wearer's face from view, or partially from view" except for religious coverings.
Additionally, numerous items including bricks, rocks, axes, mace, knives, firearms, dynamite, and torches will not be allowed in the several blocks surrounding the park between "Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to the west, Oxford to the east, Bancroft Way and Channing to the south, and University Avenue to the north."
Update Friday, Aug. 25, 4:55 p.m.: Someone claiming to be Amber Cummings, the organizer of the far-right rally in Berkeley on Sunday has sent an email to several media outlets saying that she is asking people not to attend the event. KQED has yet to independently confirm that the even has been cancelled.
Update Friday, Aug. 25, 3:15 p.m.: Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, has cancelled the rally at Crissy Field that was scheduled for tomorrow. Gibson made the announcement in a Facebook Live, citing safety concerns. He said the group will instead hold a press conference at Alamo Square Park at 2 p.m.
"It doesn't seem safe," Gibson said in the Facebook Live. "A lot of people's lives are going to be in danger tomorrow."
Gibson blamed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee as well as the media, saying their rhetoric referring to Patriot Prayer as white supremacists is bringing in "tons of extremists." He said he was worried about rally-goers and counterprotesters "intermingling" during the rally.
"In our opinion, it would've been a huge riot," Gibson said. "At the end of the day we want people to be safe."
“Reason has prevailed because the people of San Francisco have demonstrated our determination to protect the freedom of peaceful expression as well as public safety," Pelosi said in a statement following the cancellation. "We must be ever vigilant across our country against those who would abuse the Constitution to inflict harm on our communities.”
Update Friday, Aug. 25, 12:10 p.m.: The city of Berkeley has denied the permit request for the "No to Marxism" rally, citing a late, incomplete application that lacked critical information like security plans. The rally organizer was told they may be able to submit alternate dates with a complete application. Organizers say they still plan to move forward with the rally.
Two far-right rallies are planned in San Francisco and Berkeley this weekend. They come just two weeks after a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one anti-racism protester and two police officers dead.
On Wednesday, the National Park Service approved a permit for a rally led by the far-right group Patriot Prayer at Crissy Field in San Francisco on Saturday, Aug. 26.
A "No to Marxism in America" protest is scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley on Sunday, Aug. 27. Organizers of both rallies have repeatedly said the rallies are not associated with white supremacists or Nazi ideology, but members of white supremacist organizations and militias that have come armed to previous far-right rallies are expected to attend both rallies.
Numerous counterprotests have been scheduled over the weekend in response. BART and Caltrain say there will be no changes to their normal weekend service because of the rallies.
Here's what you need to know about this weekend's Bay Area rallies. This post will be updated as more information becomes available.
Restrictions and closures: The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has banned numerous items from the event on Saturday including: weapons of any kind, bags exceeding 18"x13"x7", bicycles, coolers, drones, helmets, explosives, selfie sticks, signs larger than 24"x36"x1/4", sticks, grills and liquids other than factory-sealed water bottles. While people who are permitted to carry concealed weapons are normally allowed on GGNRA land, the permit governing Saturday's rally bans all weapons.
The Presidio will be divided into two zones during the rally. Zone 1, which includes Crissy Field, will be accessible only by foot via the Marina Gate at Mason and Lyon streets. No vehicles or bicycles will be allowed in Zone 1. Visitors will be screened upon entry to make sure they do not have any prohibited items.
Zone 2 includes the Presidio Main Post and surrounding area. No vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians will be allowed in Zone 2.
The parking lots on the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge will be closed beginning at 9 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25. They will remain closed, along with all visitor amenities on that side of the bridge, through Saturday. The bridge will remain open to vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
The GGNRA also says parts of the Presidio, including many businesses within the Presidio (where Crissy Field is located), will be closed to the public on Saturday. "We strongly encourage visitors who will not be attending the Patriot Prayer event to consider coming to the Presidio on another day," said acting Golden Gate National Recreation Area General Superintendent Cicely Muldoon in a release announcing the permit.
Law enforcement presence: There will be a "strong police presence" at the event, according to a San Francisco Police Department spokeswoman. Numerous law enforcement agencies are involved in planning and protecting the event, including the United States Park Police, SFPD, the San Francisco Sheriff's Office, the California Highway Patrol and the California Office of Emergency Services. SFPD says if anyone sees something amiss, they should find a police officer or call 911, 311 or the SFPD non-emergency line at 415-553-0123.
What the organizers say about the event: Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson says the goal of the event is to "spread a message of love." The event's Facebook page says: "No extremists will be allowed in. No Nazis, Communist, KKK, Antifa, white supremacist, I.E., or white nationalists."
What elected officials say about the event: San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other city leaders asked the National Park Service to deny Patriot Prayer the permit for the event. Now that the permit has been issued, Lee has asked people to not go to Crissy Field to protest, but instead to attend counterevents taking place at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco (see below).
Counterevents: Numerous counterevents have been scheduled over the weekend in response to the Patriot Prayer event. The list below is not exhaustive.
-- Friday:Unite Against Hate Rally at Civic Center Plaza from 12-2 p.m. hosted by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission; People’s Town Hall Candlelight Vigil at Crissy Field at 7 p.m. hosted by Gays Without Borders
Public transportation: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is asking people to avoid driving around the city on Saturday because of increased congestion and limited parking. Muni service to the Presidio and Marina will not be running, in addition to other closures and reroutes (see a full list here).
SFMTA says there are no street closures currently planned around Civic Center, but there will be no parking on the surrounding streets and Civic Center Garage. SFPD and SFMTA personnel will be on-site directing traffic and could close streets if the need arises.
There are no planned changes to BART or Caltrain service.
Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley
Restrictions: No restrictions have been announced for this event, but the city is asking people to stay away from both this event and counterevents that could pull police to different locations.
Law enforcement presence: All Berkeley police officers not assigned to other patrols will be in uniform and on duty at the event. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office and other agencies will be providing support to Berkeley police.
A Berkeley police spokeswoman said that if violence occurs, people should separate themselves from the situation, get to a safe place and contact police if possible. Updates based on how the event progresses will be posted on Twitter @berkeleypolice.
What the organizers say about the event: Host Amber Cummings says the event is to protest Marxism in America. On the Facebook event page she said, "I do not invite or condone anyone showing up to this event with the intent of starting violence. I also want to add I do not stand with any racist groups like the KKK, neo-Nazis or any form of racist groups."
What elected officials say about the event: Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is urging residents to stay away from the rally. He says he will not be at the rally because of death threats he has received since February when violence erupted before the planned appearance of right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley.
Counterevents: Multiple events have also been planned in Berkeley in opposition to the far-right rally.