In the face of intense public pressure, National Park Service officials Wednesday said they are reviewing a permit application for a right-wing rally planned for later this month at Crissy Field and will announce a decision within seven business days.
The pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer, which has been described as “alt-right” by hate group watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center, is planning a rally for Aug. 26 at Crissy Field, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
News of the event this week, coming on the heels of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, has drawn protests from city, state and federal elected officials in San Francisco.
Mayor Ed Lee, Board of Supervisors President London Breed, Supervisor Mark Farrell and Police Chief William Scott on Tuesday sent a letter to Golden Gate National Recreation Area Superintendent Cicely Muldoon expressing outrage that the permit was apparently granted “without proper planning and resources.”
Lee argued that the event incited violence and compared it to “yelling fire in a crowded theater” — a well-known example of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment.
The letter called on the park service to reconsider the permit in light of the events in Charlottesville, in which a woman was killed and 19 others injured by a man who drove into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white supremacist rally. The letter sought assurances that the park service had adequate safety and security plans in place.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday also sent a letter calling for the permit to be reconsidered, as did San Francisco State Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman David Chiu and Phil Ting.
Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein joined in:
“According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Patriot Prayer attracts white nationalists and other hate groups to its rallies with the intent to provoke unrest between those groups and counter-protesters. … I am alarmed at the prospect that Crissy Field will be used as a venue for Patriot Prayer’s incitement, hate, and intimidation.”
A small group of protesters also gathered outside park service headquarters at Fort Mason this afternoon, calling for the rally to be canceled.
Muldoon said Wednesday in a statement that:
“… we have heard and take very seriously the concerns expressed by the public and elected officials. … Our highest priority is to ensure public safety, while honoring our obligation to uphold one of our nation’s most cherished Constitutional rights, the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.”
The park service will announce a final determination on the permit within the next seven business days, Muldoon said.
A mayor’s office spokeswoman today Thursday the park service contacted the mayor after receiving the letter and is in talks with the city about public safety concerns. The park service has “approved but not issued the permit,” the spokeswoman said.
In a video posted to Facebook, Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson said accusations that his rally was a white supremacist event were “lies”:
“We have a black speaker, we have two Hispanic speakers, we got a brown man right here, we got a transsexual. … We ain’t talking about race, we’re talking about love, about God.”
Gibson disavowed the violence at Charlottesville in the video, but said he thought it was “done on purpose to tear this country apart, to tear these rallies apart” and urged his followers not to feel bad because “you weren’t there.” Those wishing to comment on the permit can email at firstname.lastname@example.org.