Bay Area protest uncertainity

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU/AP) -- San Francisco Police now say they will not close Alamo Square Park ahead of Patriot Prayer's planned news conference this afternoon.

Now, counter-protesters have been let in to Alamo Square Park. 

However, it is unclear if San Francisco Recreation and Park will keep it open. Earlier this morning, city workers fenced up Alamo Square Park. 

Patriot Prayer Organizers have appeared to cancel the Alamo Square Park event. Bay City News reportedly spoke with organizer Ansen Hatcher by phone who said, "The Alamo Square press conference is cancelled due to it being blocked off by police today."

San Francisco Police says it is ready to mobilize wherever Patriot Prayer decides to move its rally. 

Two right-wing rallies planned for the weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area were canceled Friday, with organizers citing threats from left-wing agitators, but local officials said they remained concerned about the potential for violence.

A Saturday "freedom rally" planned near the Golden Gate Bridge at Crissy Field in San Francisco was canceled by the group Patriot Prayer, which said it would hold a 2 p.m. news conference at iconic Alamo Square park instead.

But now, police are limiting access to Alamo Square Park. It is unclear what Patriot Prayer will now do, if the park is closed later today.

One of Patriot Prayer's organizers, Joey Gibson posted a message on Facebook saying, "So tehy closed down Alamo Center Park. I apologize for everyone that spent money and plane tickets to come down here. Stay tuned".

Chalk drawings of peace signs and scrawled words that said, "Only love allowed here" appeared Friday night on the sidewalk with the Painted Ladies sitting in the backdrop. 

Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson said his followers would instead attend an anti-Marxist rally in nearby Berkeley on Sunday, but a short time later the organizer of that rally called it off. 

"I am asking that no one come to my event," Amber Cummings said in a lengthy statement issued via Facebook.  She said she had "grave concerns for the safety of the people attending my event."

Cummings said her rally was "to speak out against the political violence happening to people who do not agree" with left-wing ideology, and that the meaning was being lost as rhetoric around the rally escalated. However, she said she "alone" would still show up Sunday.

Mistrust remained high on both sides.

"We don't trust this group, I never have from the beginning," Mayor Ed Lee said of Gibson's Patriot Prayer group.

"All these people are saying we're white supremacists and it's bringing in tons of extremists. It just seems like a huge setup.  So we decided we're going to take the opportunity to not fall into that trap. We're not going to go down there. We're not going to have a rally at Crissy Field," said Gibson.

The Patriot Prayer rally had been approved for a permit by the National Park Service with tight security restrictions. SFPD had said no guns would be allowed earlier this week. NPS had issued 26 permit conditions that banned items including; firearms, ammunition, backpacks, bicycles and even selfie sticks. 

Gibson claimed the restrictions weren't tight enough to bar extremists from his event. He appeared Friday night on Fox's Tucker Carlson.

Tucker: "How did Nancy Pelosi and officials in California describe the event?
Gibson: "They called it a white supremacist rally.... We feel like she wanted there to be violence and she would blame it on us, blame it on so-called Trump supporters or conservatives."

So his plan B? Gibson announced a news conference at Alamo Square, surrounded by residential neighborhoods with no permit restrictions.

Mayor Ed Lee spoke at an emergency meeting at the Palace of Fine Arts Friday night and said officials do not trust what was being posted and announced on social media. He said the city would be "prepared for any contingencies and spontaneous events." 

"No permits have been requested or issued for Alamo Square this weekend, nor has the permit issued through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area been withdrawn," Mayor Lee wrote in a statement. But about an hour later, NPS issued their own statement saying that in fact, Gibson of Patriot Prayer relinquished his "First Amendment permit" for the planned rally. 

NPS said because Gibson canceled his rally permit, there would be no road closures Saturday in the Presidio. Crissy Field and all nearby businesses there and at the Main Post can remain open. However, the Visitor Center and Fort Point will remain closed.

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell said he believed Patriot Prayer members were still likely to rally at Crissy Field despite the official cancellation.

"This is all hands on deck for the city of San Francisco no matter what happens tomorrow," Farrell said.

He urged left-wing counter-protesters not to show up there, encouraging them to instead to attend a city-organized, family friendly, anti-hate gathering at the Civic Center Plaza from noon to 5 p.m.,  just six blocks away from Alamo Square. 

"People in San Francisco are looking for an outlet," Farrell said. "They have been looking for a place to go. What we've tried to do is hold an event away from everything, as much possible."

Tension over the gatherings had built in the two weeks since violence erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was charged with murder after driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.

Gibson and Cummings insisted their gatherings would be peaceful but critics alleged they would be magnets for racists and others who would seek violence.

A number of counter protests were planned. The left-wing group By Any Means Necessary, which has been involved in violent confrontations, vowed to shut down the Berkeley rally. 

Many groups in the city synonymous with the "Summer of Love" had planned to welcome their political opponents with unusual weekend protests, though it wasn't clear which of those would continue.

Plans included littering Crissy Field with dog poop, dispatching red-nosed clowns and a giant inflatable chicken that bears the hairstyle of President Donald Trump.

Also Friday, a judge ordered the jailing of a conservative organizer who has been scheduled to speak at the Patriot Prayer rally.

Kyle Chapman, a self-described "American nationalist" from nearby Daly City, was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon after authorities said he was seen on video hitting a counter-protester over the head with a billy club during a chaotic March 4 demonstration in Berkeley.

Chapman was ordered to stay 300 yards away from Sunday's rally.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of people rallied raucously and danced at City Hall. They held signs that read "Unite Against Hate" and cheered religious and elected officials who took the microphone to speak of love and champion diversity in a city that famously prides itself as a sanctuary for gays, minorities and people who are in the country illegally.

Hip-hop artist MC Hammer, who grew up in Oakland, railed against the hate that killed leaders in the 1960s, including President John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X.

"Hate is dangerous and we can't sit back and say, well, let them demonstrate it'll go away," he told the cheering crowd. "That's not the way hate operates so we have to stay on top of it and let it know it can't be comfortable here in our home."

 
 

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