Politics | August 25, 2017 10:39 am

San Francisco and Berkeley Prepare for Politically-Charged Rallies

Controversial rallies are scheduled for this weekend.

People protesting controversial Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos take to the streets on February 1, 2017 in Berkeley, California.
People protesting controversial Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos take to the streets on February 1, 2017 in Berkeley, California. A scheduled speech by Yiannopoulos was cancelled after protesters and police engaged in violent skirmishes. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

San Francisco and Berkeley are preparing for two controversial rallies scheduled this weekend. Officials are even urging residents and the public to stay away from the events, reports CNN.  

The Bay Area cities are known for being liberal, but they are bracing for a “Freedom Rally” in San Francisco on Saturday and a “No to Marxism in America” event in Berkeley on Sunday.

Organizers have said that extremists, KKK, Nazis and white supremacists are not welcome at their events, and that the events do not promote hate speech. However, police from San Francisco and Berkeley are concerned that the events could attract extremists and spark violent confrontations, writes CNN. 

Officials in San Francisco are banning nearly 30 items, including weapons, from the event. They are also blocking cars, bikes, and parking near Crissy Field, where the Freedom Rally is scheduled.

Counter events are planned in San Francisco, but they are a little different than usual, including dances, distribution of flowers, and even clowns. One Facebook page is encouraging dog owners to have their pups poop in the park on the Saturday before the event begins, and then get together on Sunday to “clean up the mess and hug each other!”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has asked people to avoid going to the field altogether. “I don’t want to dignify their message of hate in our city of love and compassion,” he said, according to CNN. 

Joey Gibson, the founder of Patriot Prayer, the group organizing the Freedom Rally, disagrees with the mayor’s characterization of the group. In Facebook videos, Gibson has said that he has been unfairly painted as a white supremacist, even though he himself is a person of color. writes CNN. He says the rally is a way to “to build a healthy culture to stand against against antifa, Communists, white supremacists, Nazis.”

Patriot Prayer organized a controversial rally in Portland only nine days after a deadly, racially charged stabbing on a commuter train. The rally resulted in arrests and the use of pepper spray by police. The group has also organized events in Seattle and Washington. They do have a permit from the National Park Service for the event, but there is a long list of conditions. There is a limit on the size of bags allowed in the park, and no guns, ammon, weapons, shields, sticks, pressurized canisters, mace, helmets, and more, are allowed.

But, according to CNN, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the Patriot Prayer event as a “white supremacist rally in the middle of a park for families and children.” She hopes that it does not become an invitation to incite violence.

Meanhwile, in Berkeley, officials are preparing for a “No to Marxism in America” at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. The group was denied a permit, but police still expect thousands to attend. According to CNN, the organizer, Amber Gwen Cummings — who identifies as a transsexual female who embraces diversity —has said the event is to protest Marxism and the teaching of it at schools like UC Berkeley.

Though the group has said racist groups are not welcome, Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin said there is indication from social media that white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups intend to come.

Arreguin said that groups are “using her protest as a platform to spout their hate and hatred against Muslims, immigrants, Latinos and the LGBT community as well.”

There are plans for counterprotests to this rally as well.

“We don’t have an option to not fight back,” said Tur-Ha Ak of the Anti-Police Terror Project and Community Ready Core to CNN affiliate KGO. “We’re not advocating violence, but we are saying you have to fight. So fight from where you stand. You choose the method, but fight.”

There are many events planned, starting with a rally against hate at San Francisco City Hall on Friday.