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SF officials plan City Hall protest against ‘Free Speech’ rally

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One person was killed and dozens were injured during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. on Aug. 12. Similar rallies have been planned across the country, including two in the Bay Area. (Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/Zuma Press/TNS)

City officials are hosting a peaceful protest Friday at City Hall in response to a rally planned for Crissy Field the following day that many fear will draw white supremacists and violence to San Francisco.

Mayor Ed Lee and Board of Supervisors President London Breed are expected to be among the attendees at the counter-rally at noon on the steps of City Hall. The rally is just one of the many events planned in protest of the impending “Free Speech” rally Saturday from Patriot Prayer, a right-wing group from the Pacific Northwest.

The National Park Service has yet to decide whether to issue a permit for Patriot Prayer to host the rally Saturday. Though in San Francisco, Crissy Field is federal land.

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“Many members of the public have reached out to me and other officials to express their outrage,” Breed said Sunday in a text message. “They have also expressed a strong desire for a peaceful anti-protest.”

“As a city, we believed it was important to provide that alternative, on our own day on our own terms, to hopefully change the narrative from violence and racism to love and unity,” Breed said.

The plans come after the mayor, Breed and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott called on the National Park Service to deny the permit.

“We have demanded the National Park Service re-evaluate the permit in this case,” the mayor told reporters last Tuesday. Lee cited safety concerns and said that San Francisco would not issue such a permit for the group.

On Aug. 12, a 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 others were injured when a reported neo-Nazi drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Meanwhile, the mayor has invited local and state officials as well as faith, business and labor leaders to a meeting this afternoon at City Hall in anticipation of the rally, according to a city insider.

So far there are different plans to protest the upcoming rally around The City, including a candlelight vigil Friday night from the San Francisco Interfaith Council and a Saturday noon rally from The City’s nightlife community.

In an interview last week with the San Francisco Examiner, rally organizer Joey Gibson distanced himself from white supremacy, saying “we’re going to keep as many hateful people out as possible.”

“I constantly promote love,” Gibson said. “In love, you don’t see skin color. I’m trying to focus on who people are on the inside. The biggest reason [to organize the rally] is to give people a voice.”

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