Organizers of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer have called off a rally planned to take place at San Francisco’s Crissy Field on Saturday.
The news was announced Friday afternoon via a Facebook Live broadcast in which the rally’s organizer and founder of Patriot Prayer, Joey Gibson, said that he felt the event would be “unsafe.”
“After several conversations with the police and understanding the situation of what’s going on we decided that tomorrow really seems like a set up — it doesn’t seem safe, a lot of people’s lives are going to be in danger tomorrow,” said Gibson, adding that the “rhetoric by [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi, Mayor [Ed] Lee, the media” designating his group as “white supremacists” was “bringing in extremists.”
Gibson has said repeatedly that he does not view his conservative group as “white supremacists.” The group had pulled permits to hold the rally at Crissy Field, where barricades had been erected as early as Friday morning.
Instead of the rally, Gibson announced that his group will hold a news conference at Alamo Square Park at 2 p.m. Saturday, and is asking The City “to keep us safe.” A Patriot Prayer rally scheduled to take place in Berkeley on Sunday had not been canceled as of Friday afternoon.
“Berkeley is a better situation because we don’t feel like we are walking into a trap,” said Gibson.
Hours before Gibson’s announcement, the first in a series of Patriot Prayer-counter rallies planned for the weekend kicked off at Civic Center Plaza by The City’s elected leaders, who reminded San Franciscans to respond appropriately, with action guided by love as opposed to hate or violence.
“You all know that some people are coming in tomorrow to our city — you know as well as I do that they have a message that we don’t believe in, a message of hate,” said Mayor Ed Lee, addressing a crowd of several hundred people gathered at the steps of City Hall. “But San Francisco is a city of love and compassion, and we will always lead with love and compassion.”
Those in attendance at the anti-hate rally held signs reading “Rise Against Hate” and “Love Wins.”
Barricades had been erected around the government building early Friday morning by officials who anticipated a large turnout. But the rally remained peaceful — many of those who attended had come to celebrate The City’s values, rooted in diversity, acceptance and compassion.
Anquinette Miller, who had come to City Hall with her five grandchildren, said she felt it was important to expose them to the counter protest.
“I feel that I was shielded from all of that, and now there is no way that anybody can be shielded from it,” said Miller. “The more that people know and recognize, the more they can see that it’s time to stop and come together in love and peace.”
Holding a “Unite Against Hate” sign, Miller’s 10-year-old granddaughter, Nakaya, chimed in: “Peace is, like, the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Donnie Cutler, who is Jewish, attended the rally with a paper replica of a yellow Star of David pinned to his suit jacket.
“My grandpa had no choice but to wear his star when Jews were being exterminated. Today, I have this choice to wear it, and to stand up and speak out,” Cutler said.
Among the rally’s roster of speakers was Bay Area Hip Hop legend MC Hammer, who serenaded the crowd with an impromptu performance, repeating the lyrics, “Love is love.”
“Hate is dangerous, and we can’t sit back and say well, let them demonstrate, it’ll go away. That is not the way hate operates,” said the rapper. “We have to stay on top of it and let it be known that it can’t be comfortable here in our home.”
Board of Supervisors President London Breed, who in recent days has spoken out against the Patriot Prayer group coming to San Francisco, said that she shares many San Franciscans “frustration,” and offered a message to for the right-wing protesters.
“To those who feel threatened by people who look like me, worship a different God, or love a different gender, welcome to America,” Breed said. “Our rights are not a threat to yours. Your bigotry is a threat to ours.”