The leader of a right-wing group scheduled to hold a “free speech” rally in San Francisco on Saturday now says he has canceled the rally and will hold a news conference instead.
Joey Gibson, founder of the group Patriot Prayer, announced Friday that the speakers initially scheduled to speak at Crissy Field in the city’s Presidio national park area will now be featured at the news conference.
The announced location of the news conference, Alamo Square, is in the center of town — far from the bayside park where the rally was planned.
Fears of violence
Gibson made the announcement on the group’s Facebook feed. He said group leaders had changed their plans because of fears that violent protesters would disrupt the rally. He also said speakers and musicians expected to appear at the rally had undergone harassment.
Will Johnson, another event organizer, called on city officials to denounce the counterprotesters, saying, “They are bringing the violence.”
Gibson said the group still plans to participate in an anti-Marxist rally scheduled for Sunday in nearby Berkeley, California.
With the rally canceled, it was unclear whether extensive closures in the Presidio park would continue through the weekend. The park service is shutting down public access to parking lots, bike paths, dog-walking areas, restaurants, museums, even a bowling alley on the base.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee had urged residents of San Francisco to boycott the event, after failing to persuade the National Park Service to deny the group an event permit.
Patriot Prayer’s Gibson has said the group is neither racist nor neo-Nazi. But critics, including local U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, called the gathering a white nationalist rally. Counterprotesters had planned to gather at Crissy Field on Saturday, setting the stage for possible violence.
The weekend’s events kicked off on Friday with a Unite Against Hate rally at the San Francisco Civic Center.
On Saturday, a unity rally will be held in the city’s Castro District, historic headquarters of San Francisco’s gay community. Other groups are sponsoring events centered on dance, flowers, boats and a even a “heart-shaped human banner.”
In nearby Berkeley, scene of rallies that turned violent in April, conservative groups were expected to gather at the civic center for a No to Marxism in America rally on Sunday. But the city has denied that group’s request for a rally permit, leaving the fate of the event uncertain.
Counterprotesters were still planning to gather, however, at the civic center and also on campus at the University of California on Sunday.
On the East Coast on Monday, the Reverend Al Sharpton is organizing the One Thousand Ministers March for Justice in Washington.
More than 1,000 religious leaders from multiple faiths will hold a rally in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which is located along the Tidal Basin on the southwest side of the National Mall.
The march also commemorates the 54th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. More than 200,000 people took part in that march, which was held August 28, 1963.