SF sends the white supremacists packing

Large rallies sent a clear message against hate -- and the alt-right folks folded

San Francisco sent the white supremacists packing today.

Joey Gibson cancelled his rally at Crissy Field, saying he was afraid of violence (after the police made it clear that they would not allow any weapons and would search everyone at the lone entrance to the park).

Then he said he would hold a press conference at Alamo Square at 2pm — but the cops closed and fenced that park off, and by 11:30, hundreds and hundreds of protesters were showing up.

Crowds gather near Alamo Square

The impromptu rally, called on Facebook and organized in part by Mission activist and City College professor Benjamin Bac Sierra, soon attracted a huge crowd, at least 5,000 by my count and possibly many more.

“This is amazing,” Bac Sierra told me as we watched the throngs of people go by. “This is historic.”

The crowd marched peacefully through the Mission, with music and chants. “We are celebrating victory,” Bac Sierra said. 

Benjamin Bac Sierra gets the crowd going

And indeed, it appeared that — with no violence or threats of violence — activists in San Francisco convinced the white supremacists that this was not a good place to hold a rally. Gibson tried to livestream a press conference, but hardly anyone watched it, and his colleague, Kyle Chapman, who has been charged with beating protesters with a lead-loaded cane, seemed to get the message.

According to the Mercury News, Chapman said that 

I think the best game plan moving forward is for us to take a break on rallies in liberal enclaves like Berkeley and San Francisco … and focus on rallies where we have a definite chance of a win.

A “No Marxism” rally is still planned for Berkeley tomorrow.

Several of the speakers at Alamo Square noted that city officials have tried to keep protesters from confronting the far right. In Boston, the mayor urged everyone to stay away from a white supremacist rally — but 40,000 showed up anyway, and forced the neo-Nazis to leave.

Jeff Adachi talks about resisting white supremacy

In San Francisco, Ed Lee tried to keep people away from Crissy Field, going so far as to cut off most Muni service to the area. Paul Rose, a Muni spokesperson, told me that 

Safety will always be our top priority and this transportation plan was developed to keep Muni riders and transit staff as safe as possible.

But I heard endless complaints from people who said they wanted to show up to challenge Gibson’s crew but were frustrated that they wouldn’t be able to get there.

At first, the official line was to keep people from Alamo Square, too: Cops fenced off the entire park and surrounded it, and at one point early on tried to declare the rally an unlawful assembly. 

But people kept showing up anyway, and eventually the police brass decided to back down. They closed off the surrounding streets, opened up the intersection of Hayes and Steiner, and allowed the throng to fill Hayes all the way down the hill to Fillmore. 

Around 12:30, Bac Sierra announced that the rally would move through the Mission to 24th St, and as I stood by the side of the road, marchers kept coming. More and more seemed to arrive by the minute. As soon as one wave seemed to be thinning out, another would arrive. 

The march through the mission attracted many thousands

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people in a march that was organized in just a few hours.

By 2pm, we were hearing that Gibson had moved his show to Pacifica. 

The mayor held an official anti-hate rally at City Hall, which was fairly well attended, as was a rally organized by Cleve Jones and Juanita Moore in the Castro that drew several thousand. Jones is using the neo-Nazi rallies to raise money for local anti-fascist causes. So is the Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco, which even had an airplane flying overhead with a banner announcing that the “adopt a Nazi, not really” campaign has already raised $130,000.

Tomorrow, Berkeley.

UPDATE: Late in the day, Gibson and a few others showed up at Crissy Field. There was no rally. A few protesters challenged the alt-right, but Gibson never got the media or the confrontation that he apparently wanted.

MEANWHILE IN THE CASTRO (Update from Marke B): 

A very colorful crowd gathered at a peace rally and march led by drag queen Juanita More and Cleve Jones. Hundreds showed up with an array of humorous and poignant signs and t-shirts (and kites, and wagons….)

Melba Maldonado, Active Director of La Raza Community Resource Center. Photo by David Schnur
Alex U. Inn, community leader and head of Momma’s Boyz. Photo by David Schnur

Speakers included Melba Maldonado (“I wear a wool scarf today to remind myself of the heat that the victims of Joe Arpaio suffered”) and Alex U. Inn (“Women are losing more and more control of their bodies every day.”)  

Participants in the rally marched from the Castro to Civic Center. Photo by Ken Leaf.

After an hour of speakers and music, the rlly then marched to Civic Center for what turned into a vibrant dance party. 

Kites away! Photo by David Schnur

 

  • Ragazzu

    Love the epilogue. Wherever they go, whole communities rise up against them. I mean, 40,000 Bostonians can't all be "leftist scum." Millions around the world who took to the streets for the Women's March of January 21 can't all be crazed radicals. At some point these guys will have to look at themselves and admit that they are the fringe, the crazies, the extremists, the bad guys—and vastly outnumbered by normal, loving people.

    • John Bill

      It's beautiful!

    • hillog

      One need be normal to come up with such a conclusion. And there is nothing normal about Nazis; they are society's cancer that no matter how much one does, we seem to only get as far as remission. Racism will always be there challenging us to submit. Generation after generation has come and gone fighting in opposition working to finish the job of our grandparents in WWII.

      Now, it's my turn.

    • disqus_67RhXZaxBF

      right, the only supporter they have is Trump

  • curiousKulak

    Breitbart reported counter-demonstators "“shut down a major San Francisco freeway off-ramp (Octavia) Saturday and scuffled with police at the edge of Alamo Square Park during a day of protests".

    However, the link they provide to CBS – http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/08/26/weekend-rallies-transbay-patriot-prayer/
    only shows marchers proceeding from Alamo Sq to the Mission. With several thousand people passing thruogh (they ARE moving), it will take a while to clear an intersection. In actuality, I think it was the police that blocked the marchers from entering the freeway, so not quite right to say marchers "shut it down". Semantically, I guess you could compare this to Critical Mass, but I believe the cops are now blocking for CM; so who it to be blamed for interruptions?

    Then at around 1:30 p.m. a group of demonstrators blocked the Central Freeway off-ramp into San Francisco’s Western Addition, backing up traffic on Highway 101.

  • MKR

    Impressive job of getting rid of the trouble causers with minimal violence and no causalties

  • mothergrace

    They are shutting down marches in liberal enclaves because they (and many others) have the wrong idea about what non-violent protestors really mean. They mean that they will not start the violence. They do not mean they are afraid of confronting violence or using as must aggressive behavior, going on to violent behavior as is necessary.

    When they confront people who will not back down because they are not afraid and even fight back, they don't know what to do. So they go over the top (driving into the crowd) or they back down and run away.

    I can go my whole life without picking up a weapon but I will do it if someone else starts using weapons to control people. When those people are stopped, that weapon means nothing to me. It is simply a tool I used for awhile. I don't spend all of my time polishing it and waiting for the chance to use it again, that's all these people have so we have to keep stopping them again and again.

  • AtomMike

    A fun empowering day! Thanks for the coverage, and to Juanita MORE! for the LGBTQetc organization! https://nohatesf.org/

  • sfo6000

    I'm proud of my City.

  • Brandon Strandman

    It's a pain to read such news from home while being away… I hope it won't lead to some mass riot like it was in Ukraine a couple of weeks ago.