owlmoose: (think)
KJ ([personal profile] owlmoose) wrote2017-08-26 11:51 pm

Not In My House

It's been a bit of a wild ride in San Francisco these last couple of days.

A "Patriot Prayer" rally was scheduled for Saturday, at Crissy Field, a bayshore park that's part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, and therefore under the control of the National Park Service. (This is an important detail, because California has pretty strict gun laws, including a ban on open carry. But as a national park, GGNRA is covered by federal laws, not state.) Patriot Prayer is a Seattle-based far-right anti-government group; they claim to be opposed to white supremacy, but white supremacists and white nationalists often attend their "free speech" rallies, and several have gotten violent. The Southern Poverty Law Center has good overviews of these rallies. Although SPLC doesn't consider Patriot Prayer a hate group, they consider PP to be right-wing trolls who organize events in hope of provoking a reaction from anti-facists and other left-wing activists to provide more evidence for "both sides"/"you're the REAL intolerant ones" rhetoric.

So, the NPS granted Patriot Prayer their permit, but it came with a zillion restrictions: no weapons or anything that could be used as a weapon, including guns, not even concealed carry with a permit (which is allowed in CA). No parking on site, public transit to the area shut down, lots of roads closed, only one way in or out, with high security. Various groups planned counter-protests, mostly elsewhere in the city. The situation was tense, but controlled -- until yesterday afternoon, when Joey Gibson, leader of Patriot Prayer, suddenly announced that the Crissy Field event was "cancelled". Instead, he would be holding a "press conference" at Alamo Square, a much smaller city park, with all the same speakers and bands as the original event. Gibson claimed the venue change was for safety reasons; in that case, why move from a large, open area that is cordoned off, high security, and under high police protection (city police, park police, they even called in some National Guard) to a much smaller and less secure city park smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood, much closer to the site of planned counterprotests? To me -- and to others -- it seemed like a ploy to increase the likelihood of a confrontation.

The city responded by shutting down the park for the day. Put up fences overnight, and announced the park would be closed. That didn't stop the counter-protesters: hundreds showed up. But it did stop the right-wingers, as Joey Gibson "cancelled" again, saying that he would do an indoor press conference at an "undisclosed location" and then "pop-up" at various places in the city for "conversation". Which is not ominous in any way. In the end, I hear that he did the press conference via Internet at a private home in Pacifica, then went to Crissy Field after all, joined by about 50 supporters and 100 counter-protesters. I know of no real clashes between protestors, so it seems to have mostly come out all right in the end. Perhaps the "alt-right" will use the events of today to feed their persecution narrative -- Gibson is already spinning it as "proof" that the left wing only wants to shut down free speech -- but I'd rather that outcome than have actual violent confrontations.

I decided back when the event was first announced that I had to be involved somehow. Although I'd never claim that there are no white supremacists living in the Bay Area, the idea of anyone coming out to spread a message of violent hate in force is intolerable. However, for my own comfort level and especially for T's, I decided it was best to attend an offsite counter-protest, not go to Crissy Field. So the idea that the so-called Patriots might be roaming the city, looking for "conversation" -- yeah, sure, okay -- was unnerving. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. T and I went to the Castro, where we met our friend DK. The rally and march was organized by a whole bunch of community organizations and hosted by legendary SF activists Juanita More and Cleve Jones (the founder of the NAMES Quilt). All of the speakers were interesting, engaging, and kept it short. Jones in particular gave a moving speech about pushing forward through times of adversity, like the death of Harvey Milk and the AIDS crisis. Then we marched, walking down Market Street to another event already in progress at the Civic Center.

It was a great crowd: positive, supportive, upbeat. No right-wing protestors in sight, and lots of happy honks and waves and "thank you"s from drivers passing by on the other side of the street. Lots of creative signs, of course. Some of my favorites: "When they go low, we get tough"; some Rosie the Riveter cosplayer with WWII-themed signs; "I'm with her" over a photo of Heather Heyer; and a fake TripAdvisor review that gave SF "0 out of 10 stars for white supremacists". Also, a fun new chant, to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It":

If you're a Nazi and you're fired, it's your fault
If you're a Nazi and you're fired, it's your fault
If you're spotted in a mob, and you lose your fucking job
If you're a Nazi and you're fired, it's your fault


I'm glad I went, and I'm glad the response from the city and its people was so overwhelming: your blatant hate is not welcome here. Now I hope we can carry this momentum forward to improve equality for our citizens in other ways. Obviously, SF is not without its problems. But I'm happy to have come together on this important an issue for one day.

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