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San Francisco Braces for Weekend Right-Wing Rally

by Alyssa Newcomb /
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee gestures during a news conference as Board of Supervisors President London Breed, left, and police chief William Scott, right, listen at City Hall Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, in San Francisco.Eric Risberg / AP

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SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco leaders are urging people to stay away from a politically charged "Freedom Rally" on Saturday that local leaders have labeled as a white supremacist event.

Patriot Prayer, the group organizing the rally at San Francisco's waterfront Crissy Field, said on the event's Facebook page that "no extremists will be allowed in."

"No Nazis, Communist, KKK, Antifa, white supremacist, I.E., or white nationalists," the group said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee gestures during a news conference as Board of Supervisors President London Breed, left, and police chief William Scott, right, listen at City Hall Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, in San Francisco.Eric Risberg / AP

But not everyone is buying it. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, denounced the event as a "white supremacist" rally. State Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers David Chiu and Phil Ting in a statement opposing the issuance of a permit earlier this month called it "a likely violent rally of White Supremacists."

Patriot Prayer says suggestions that it is a hateful group are false, and its leader said he does not believe in white supremacy.

Mayor Ed Lee urged San Francisco residents to attend peaceful counter events, including "Unite Against Hate" rally hosted on Friday by the city.

"I ask our public and our residents of the San Francisco Bay Area to honor our request to not dignify people who are coming in here under the guise of patriot and prayer words to really preach violence and hatred," Lee said at a press conference.

The National Park Service, which manages Crissy Field, approved the permit on Wednesday on free speech grounds, despite concern from city officials that the protests could turn violent. Two other permits were approved for Crissy Field on Saturday. One is for "Better Angels San Francisco," and the second for a "Stop Hate Human Banner" gathering.

Parts of the Presidio, a national park, will be closed down, along with many businesses inside the park, according to a post from the National Park Service. In addition, weapons will be banned, along with flagpoles, selfie sticks, helmets, shields and pepper spray.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said at a news conference this week that the area of protest will be secured. "You will see a very, very large presence of officers at Crissy Field as well as in other parts of the city," he said.

Patriot Prayer said the event is "an opportunity for moderate Americans to come in with opposing views." But the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said white nationalists and skinheads have previously attended Patriot Prayer events in the group's home state of Oregon, generally without "announcing their presence."

In a Facebook video, Joey Gibson, leader of Patriot Prayer, said he is a person of color and does not believe in white supremacy. "I am trying to bring people together who believe in freedom, believe in love, believe in peace and believe in free speech," he said.

Workers unload a chainlink fence at Crissy Field in anticipation of Saturday's Patriot Prayer rally and counter demonstration in San Francisco on Aug. 25, 2017.STEPHEN LAM / Reuters

But one movement being organized on Facebook believes the "Freedom Rally" is a load of crap — and they plan to show their displeasure by leaving dog poop on Crissy Field before the event.

"Take your dog to Crissy Field and let them do their business and be sure not to clean it up!" reads the event's Facebook page. "We can get together Sunday and clean up the mess and hug each other!"

The rally is scheduled to last from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

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