‘Peace, Love and Understanding’ counter-protest kicks off in SF

While organizers of the Patriot Prayer rally have cancelled the event scheduled at San Francisco’s Crissy Field, a major planned counter-protest will proceed today as planned, a spokeswoman said.

“Peace, Love and Understanding: A Gathering Against Hate” will take place in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza from noon until 5 p.m. today, spokeswoman Arielle Goren said this morning.

Today’s counter-demonstration at the Civic Center will include musical performances and speeches by dignitaries including Sheryl Davis, executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

The rally is free and 2,800 people gave RSVPs, with 8,000 interested in attending, on the gathering’s Facebook page, Goren said.

The National Park Service late Friday night confirmed organizers associated with the Patriot Prayer rally that was scheduled for today at 2 p.m. in San Francisco’s Crissy Field relinquished the First Amendment permit for the organization’s rally.

Joey Gibson, whose Facebook profile indicates that he manages Patriot Prayer, cited concerns for public safety in a video livecast on social media around 3 p.m. on Friday.

In its place, initially it was announced that the group would hold a press conference in Alamo Square Park today.

In response, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said in a statement:

“Today the right-wing extremist group Patriot Prayer — with a history of violent rallies — showed its true colors by cancelling, at the last minute, its permitted rally at Crissy Field and scheduling an illegal un-permitted rally at Alamo Square.”

He continued:

“This rally in Alamo Square is illegal and in the heart of a residential neighborhood, and I am deeply concerned it will lead to violence, particularly given how close Alamo Square is to the counter-protest at Civic Center. As a matter of public safety, it cannot be allowed to happen.”

Police fenced off Alamo Square with chain-link fence, and Gibson cancelled his press conference, saying he would hold it at an unspecified alternative location.

Gibson also posted that he would “pop up at random spots in the city.” Police are adapting to developments as they come and will have a presence in various parts of San Francisco, a spokeswoman said.

Kristin Hogan, a spokeswoman for San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management said:

“Safety is the city’s top priority and all decisions are being made with safety in mind.”

Goren added:

“Our objective above all is to show hate has no place in our city and our backyard, and to show how many compassionate loving people there are in San Francisco.”