The organizer of a right-wing rally at San Francisco’s Crissy Field this weekend Tuesday said he expected to receive a permit from the National Park Service for the event, but warned attendees that “security is going to be on lockdown.”
In a Facebook video posted Tuesday afternoon, Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson said that he had been in talks with park service officials and was happy with the plans for security at the “Freedom Rally” planned for Saturday.
There will be fences and a large physical separation between protesters and event supporters to prevent violence, and those attending will be searched, Gibson said.
In addition, there will be a parking lot for event attendees with a shuttle to take them to the site, and police will provide security for vehicles, Gibson said:
“I’m extremely encouraged right now, I feel really good about the preparations that have been going on. … This is going to be fun, this is going to be different, this is going to be a unique experience for sure.”
San Francisco elected officials including Mayor Ed Lee and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last week asked the park service to rescind the permit for the Patriot Prayer event after an attack at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia left one woman participating in a counter-protest dead.
Park service officials have not announced a final decision on the permit but have previously indicated that they are required to honor First Amendment requirements as well as public safety concerns.
Mayor Ed Lee today said that it is likely that the permit will be granted, and city officials have been working on plans for a strong police response.
Police and city officials have been meeting with the park service on a daily basis to negotiate safety conditions on the permit for the rally, Lee said:
“We’ve demanded that there be no weapons or guns, including guns, concealed or otherwise, weapons that can be made out of signs and bats and sticks, things that might be concealed and carried on people.”
While the park service does not necessarily have the experience to impose those conditions on demonstrations, city police do. They will be working as part of a unified command, Lee said.
Other agencies have also been involved in the talks, including the U.S. Coast Guard, which could be asked to help keep an eye on some unguarded access points to Crissy Field. Lee said:
“We’re looking at every point of entry and making sure we’re covering them.”
While counter-protesters are expected at Crissy Field, Lee and other city officials are strongly urging residents to attend a counter-protest at the Civic Center instead, in an effort to reduce the potential for violent confrontation.
His administration has been meeting with various groups to suggest that “maybe we ought to consider not dignifying this event by going to Crissy Field,” Lee said.
Gibson has angrily rejected accusations that the pro-Trump Patriot Prayer is a white supremacist group, arguing that the event includes black, Latino and transgender speakers.
Gibson said Tuesday he has spoken with the organizers of several counter protests in San Francisco and found that:
“… a lot of them are good people, and they don’t think we are a white supremacist group.”
Gibson, though, called out “antifa,” a term for antifascist protesters using confrontational tactics, as
“… violent thugs.”
The event in San Francisco is one of two planned in the Bay Area this weekend. A second “No to Marxism in America” event is scheduled in Berkeley on Sunday, and is expected to draw both a strong police presence and counter-protesters.