Note: This article contains coarse language that may offend some readers.
We found out two weeks ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, what happens when a group of white supremacists hold a rally, but what would happen if a peaceful group were to schedule a rally to advocate for the First Amendment right to free speech?
A group called Patriot Prayer did exactly that when it scheduled an event at Crissy Field Beach in San Francisco this weekend.
Fox News reported the following on Wednesday:
Patriot Prayer bills itself as a peaceful First Amendment advocacy group that appears in locations where there have been past confrontations over free speech. For example, Patriot Prayer organized the Evergreen State College protest outside Seattle where Gibson was pepper sprayed by counter-protesters.
That rally came after leftist hecklers confronted a professor who spoke out against an event in which organizers asked white students to voluntarily leave campus for one day as part of an exercise in equality.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reportedly does not categorize Patriot Prayer as a hate group nor does it consider Joey Gibson, the group's organizer, an extremist. In fact, Gibson shouted, “F**k white supremacists!” on stage at a recent rally.
Gibson told Fox News the upcoming rally is rooted in “a philosophy about promoting love and peace but doing it in a way that's respectful. It's about building bridges.”
You can watch Gibson discuss the group here:
On Wednesday, the National Park Service issued a statement:
Many people have expressed concerns about safety related to the Patriot Prayer event. After consultation with other law enforcement colleagues, including the San Francisco Police Department, National Park Service law enforcement believe that whether a permit is issued or not, many people will come to Crissy Field on August 26 to express their opinions.
Law enforcement advised that issuing a permit will increase their ability to ensure public safety. Accordingly, the National Park Service has decided to approve the permit with significant conditions to promote the peaceful, non-violent expression of views.
A permit was eventually granted to Patriot Prayer, and there was immediate backlash.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement on Aug. 15:
The National Park Service’s decision to permit a white supremacist rally [...] raises grave and ongoing concerns about public safety. Free speech does not grant the right to yell fire in a crowded theater, incite violence or endanger the public in any venue.
According to Fox News, Pelosi reportedly wondered if this decision to permit a “white supremacist rally” was made “under guidance from the White House.”
Gibson responded to Pelosi's comments, saying:
“Nancy Pelosi said it was a white supremacist rally so she could bring out extremists on the right and the left. She’s telling white supremacists to come into town.”
Gibson doesn't seem concerned about the outbreak of violence and went on to say:
“The politicians like Nancy Pelosi don’t like people coming in talking about freedom. At the end of the day they don’t care about racism. They want a revolution in the country.”
Permits were also issued to groups wishing to counter-protest the event. In preparation for the worst-case scenario, the San Francisco Police Department is having all of its officers come into work Saturday. Mayor Ed Lee issued this statement following the granting of the permit:
The shameful, anti-American trend of hate-filled extremist rallies will unfortunately be allowed to continue this weekend in our city.
Since the beginning of this process, we have repeatedly stated that the public safety of San Francisco residents and visitors is our top priority. With the event now officially permitted, the San Francisco Police Department is working with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the United States Park Police on a comprehensive public safety plan.
Let us show this nation that San Francisco is a city of peace and unity. Do not engage with the members of this group, whose only priority is to incite violence through divisive rhetoric. Instead of dignifying their display of hatred, we ask that residents join peaceful gatherings taking place at the Civic Center Plaza on Friday and Saturday at 12 p.m.”
The permit provided to the Patriot Prayer group was reportedly issued before the events in Charlottesville. The rally is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m.