Peaceful protest reigns on City streets

The areas around Alamo Square Park, the Castro and Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco saw huge crowds of peaceful counter-protesters responding to a Patriot Prayer rally that had been scheduled for Saturday.

“Black Lives Matter” signs, rainbow banners and a marching band have joined the upbeat ad hoc gathering around Alamo Square Park, which police closed for safety reasons after Patriot Prayer organizers abruptly switched the location of their event to the park Friday.

Video by Dayvon Dunaway/SFBay

Organizers Saturday canceled the park press conference as well, but crowds of counter-protesters showed up to make their feelings known nonetheless.

Some crowd members from the park are presently dispersing and marching to 24th and Mission in the city, flooding the streets and blocking the streets in some cases.

A “Peace, Love and Understanding” rally with music and speakers kicked off around noon today at the Civic Center Plaza, with Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, acting as mistress of ceremonies.

Spokeswoman Arielle Goren said:

“We have a kid’s zone, kids playing with bubbles, hanging out in the sun and playing with balloons. … It’s a warm, friendly crowd, lots of people dancing.”

She said the Brothers Comatose, a bluegrass band, had just finished a set.

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 Saturday.

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 canceling, at the last minute, its permitted rally at Crissy Field and scheduling an illegal un-permitted rally at Alamo Square. … 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.”