The leader of a right-wing group that had planned a Saturday rally at Crissy Field in San Francisco said Friday he had chose to call off the event, just as local and federal officials put the finishing touches on a slate of security measures created to head off the kind of violence seen earlier this month in Charlottesville, Va.
A photo of the post by Joey Gibson, leader of Patriot Prayer, on August 25, 2017 announcing a press conference as opposed to the scheduled Freedom Rally at Crissy Field in San Francisco, Calif.
He said group leaders had changed their plans because of fears that violent protesters would disrupt the rally. They also worry that impromptu rally will occur in its place.
When he cancelled the so-called "free speech" rally, Gibson said his followers would instead attend an anti-Marxist rally in Berkeley Sunday, but the organizer of that rally called it off a short time later. "I never have from the beginning", Mayor Ed Lee said of Patriot Prayer.
San Francisco officials and police had been preparing the city for a potential swarm of rally attendees and counter-protesters - particularly after the violent clash between counter-protesters and neo-Nazis, members of the Ku Klux Klan and white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month.
Gibson blamed liberal politicians and critics - who repeatedly characterized the event in terms like "Nazi rally" - for attracting extremist groups, despite his repeated public insistence that white nationalists are not welcome at the event. But local members of the Ku Klux Klan said they planned to attend and counter-protesters effectively shut down the rally before it could begin.
Charles Rachlis, 60, said multiple coalitions of church groups, civil rights activists, socialists and anarchists were organizing to combat the presence of the far right in the city. "I was hoping they would cancel and pack up their tents and go home".
State Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, said in a tweet that the press conference would be "illegal as they have no permit". Patriot Prayer's news conference is scheduled there later in the day. Concerned about possible violence, city officials have urged residents to stay away from other gatherings on Saturday and Sunday.
The objective of holding the rally, Gibson has said, was to challenge people on the left and the right who are too intolerant of any viewpoints that don't match their own.
Anti-racists had planned on demonstrating against the Patriot Prayer group in the same location, Crissy Fields. And in those weeks, several people within President Donald Trump's administration have issued statements or resigned, citing his failure to condemn white supremacists.
People 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 prides itself as a sanctuary for gays, minorities and people who are in the country illegally. He said he was inspired by peaceful protests last weekend in Boston, which overshadowed a right-wing rally.
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