Activism

White Supremacist Rally in San Francisco Canceled at Last Minute by Smorgasbord of Counter-Protests and Anti-Hate Rallies

Thousands prepared to confront the white supremacists; now their focus shifts to Berkeley.

Photo Credit: Photo by Steven Rosenfeld

A white power rally planned for Saturday in San Francisco was canceled Friday after its right-wing organizers said in a live Facebook feed that they were facing too many threats from anti-hate activists and city leaders.

The surprise announcement by “Patriot Prayer” organizer Joey Gibson came hours after San Francisco civic and cultural leaders launched a weekend of resistance to Saturday’s event on national parkland on the city’s edge and a followup rally planned for Berkeley on Sunday.

“The rhetoric from Mayor [Ed] Lee, [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi, the media—all these people are saying we are white supremacists and it's bringing in tons of extremists,” Gibson said, on UnitedAmericaFirst.com’s Facebook page. “We’re going to take the opportunity to not fall into that trap.”

Gibson said the rally organizers would hold a news conference on Saturday and the Berkeley event would be held. However, other Facebook posts said Amber Cummings, organizer of the Berkeley event, had canceled her event, but would symbolically be at Martin Luther King Park.

"This rally will take place but it will be me alone attending," said a photo of a letter from Cummings to "the press and to the people" with a 4:30pm date stamp. She added in all-caps, "I stress I do not want anyone coming," saying she wanted to avoid violence.  

The turn of events capped an emotional day in San Francisco, with city leaders pulling out the stops to organize events and counter-protests underscoring that their city’s values forcefully reject any political philosophy elevating one race or religion above another.

A City Says No to Hate

“Love overcomes hate,” said Rev. Cecil Williams, pastor emeritus of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, and a leader of the civil rights community in the Bay Area for a half-century. He opened a Friday rally on the steps of  San Francisco City Hall by urging all to stand up for love, justice, inclusion and peace. “San Francisco is a city of peace and love is the answer… Live it every day.”

“We need this day to show the rest of the country and the entire world that we stand up against hate and for inclusion,” said the rally’s emcee, Renel Brooks-Moon, the public address announcer for the San Francisco Giants, as she introduced a dozen speakers to a crowd of several thousand. “Diversity is our strength. We are stronger together.”

“It is important that we are all here together the day before hate shows up on our shores,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said. “I want to say this, because we should say it for the rest of the country. When you have a city that leads with love and compassion, then we are, and will always be, a city of sanctuary.” To cheers, Lee continued, “We will resist the wall. We will resist the registry. We will support our Muslim brothers and sisters that are under attack. And we will always be a city of love and compassion.”

“Tomorrow, there’s going to be a handful of people on Crissy Field [at Golden Gate National Recreation Area] who are going to espouse hate, but there will be an army of lovers in this city and throughout the city making it very clear that we are united against hate,” said South Bay Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a San Francisco native. “We are often at the forefront of every new social movement. We are in the forefront of another social movement that says ‘not in our America.’ We are not going to allow hate to infect us and become a cancer in this country.”

The political leaders sounded similar notes, saying that San Francisco and surrounding Bay Area cities consider diversity, justice, inclusion and fairness to be core values and their moral compass. But while they spoke openly about embracing “love not hate,” as a shorthand for these values, some of the speakers said their community—as well as the country—was undergoing one of the most challenging cultural moments in decades.   

“Our society is going through a profound shift. The current landscape challenges some of our fundamental values, our assumptions, and our democracy,” said John Powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley. “We have to go back to a previous time to find a country so divided, all the way back to the Civil War. Yet we have clear internal choices. The core institutions, the core values of the people of this country, need to be defended. In times like this we need leadership.”

“It is necessary for us to actively resist hate, racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and other forms that would exclude any person. Yet resistance is not enough,” Powell continued. “That’s why we are gathered here today, not just in opposition to hate but in celebration of love and celebration of each other. But that’s not enough either. We have to give our time, our money, our power, our organizing, to make this dream a reality. We need each other. The Bay Area needs us. The country needs us. The planet needs us.”

“So what do we do this time?” Powell said, raising the most pressing question. “We have different strategies. Some of us may march. Some of us may boycott. Some of us may organize our workplace. Some of us may run for office. Some of us may hold each other. But we all have to be engaged. We all have to do more than we have done in the past… The only way to make America great is to make America all of ours.”

A Spectrum of Anti-Hate Events in San Francisco

In recent days, various arms of city government have organized counter protests, rallies, peace festivals and “help-against-hate stations" across the city. The city’s Human Rights Commission has nine events mixing speakers and artists. A Peace, Love and Understanding rally and concert will be held at Civic Center plaza from noon to 5pm Saturday, hosted by the mayor’s office. A rally and march for equality from Harvey Milk Plaza will feed into that event. On Friday, neighborhood cultural centers are holding rallies and other interfaith gatherings.   

And then there was the planned resistance to the white supremacist gathering at Crissy Field for their Saturday afternoon rally. The National Park Service issued a permit banning anyone from carrying two-dozen items including guns, ammunition, pepper spray and other potential weapons. The city is shutting down bus service to keep gawkers away, and the city’s entire police force will be mobilized.

Many ad hoc and longstanding groups have posted plans online for counter protests.

ResistSF was planning to meet at 11am and then march to Crissy Field. Brown Lives Matter was planning to meet at 9am on the nearby Marina Green and march to Crissy Field. More than 330 people have told the organizers’ Facebook page they are going. Another group, San Francisco Marchers Against Hate, was planning to converge on the white supremacists via hiking trails. ResistanceSF was calling on people to show up in clown costumes, while warning them the Park Service has banned balloons. Other groups were encouraging people who walk their dogs on Crissy Field not to pick up the feces before the right-wing rally.

Another coalition, San Franciscans Against Hate, also planned meeting at 10am in the same area near the city’s Marina District.

“The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 10, who has a long history of fighting against racism, along with many other SF community groups and individuals who stand against white supremacy, misogyny and homophobia, will be marching from Marina Green to Crissy Field to protest the fascists, white supremacists and Nazis gathering there. Join us!” the ILWU's Facebook page said. Its coalition includes ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition, Bay Resistance, Democratic Socialists of America-San Francisco, Democratic Socialists of America-Silicon Valley, International Socialist Organization, Indivisible San Francisco, John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, Labor for Palestine, Labor for Standing Rock, and Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)-SF.

All these groups have shown a small cadre of right-wingers espousing white supremacist views that they are not welcome in San Francisco. The Crissy Field event organizer, Joey Gibson, said he would hold a news conference Saturday at 2pm in another city park. 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Election 2018
Environment
Food
Media
World