SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hundreds of people rallied raucously and danced against hate Friday in advance of a conservative “free speech” rally over the weekend near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco that civic leaders worry might turn violent.
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 famously prides itself as a sanctuary for gays, minorities and people who are in the country illegally.
In a late development, organizers of the planned Patriot Prayer on Friday afternoon announced that they were cancelling the Crissy Field event scheduled for Saturday. The group instead is planning to hold a press conference in Alamo Square Park with many of the same speakers Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
WEEKEND OF PROTESTS:
• Berkeley Denies Permit For Anti-Marxism Rally On Sunday
• San Francisco Muni Shuts Down Cable Cars, Other Routes For Day Of Protests
• Park Service OKs San Francisco Crissy Field Permit For Patriot Prayer, Counter-Protests
Hip-hop artist MC Hammer, who grew up across the bay in Oakland, railed against the hate that killed leaders in the 1960s, including President John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X.
“Hate is dangerous and we can’t sit back and say, well, let them demonstrate it’ll go away,” he told the cheering crowd. “That’s not the way hate operates so we have to stay on top of it and let it know it can’t be comfortable here in our home.”
Police in San Francisco were bracing for possible conflict Saturday when a group called Patriot Prayer hosts a “freedom rally” at Crissy Field near the foot of the Golden Gate to the dismay of Mayor Ed Lee and other Democrats who say the group invites hate.
Lee called on people to come back to City Hall on Saturday to show their opposition, instead of going to Crissy Field.
Prior to announcing the cancellation, Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson had pushed back, saying the group disavows racism and hatred
The civic leaders are on edge following the Aug. 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly.
On Sunday, an unpermitted anti-Marxist gathering hosted by a transgender Trump supporter is scheduled in Berkeley. The anti-Trump organization By Any Means Necessary, which has sometimes supported violent tactics, has vowed to shut it down, prompting worry among authorities that the two sides might clash.
Some people in the city synonymous with the “Summer of Love” plan to welcome their political opponents with unusual protests: a field of dog poop, red-nosed clowns and a giant inflatable chicken that bears the hairstyle of President Donald Trump.
Elsewhere in the city, children will gather in Golden Gate Park to “smother hate” with cuteness, and drag queens will march for equality in the historically gay Castro district. Protesters are also hoping to create a huge heart-shaped human banner on the beach.
Resident Tuffy Tuffington said he came up with the idea to leave dog droppings at the site of Saturday’s event as an inside joke. He is calling for dog owners to let their pups do their thing at Crissy Field, and then return Saturday night or Sunday to clean up and “hug each other.”
“I was just thinking about Charlottesville and the general state of our nation, and just frustrated on how to react to these things,” he said.
The famously irate-looking fowl with Trump’s golden hair is expected to appear on a barge during Saturday’s rally under the Golden Gate Bridge in case Patriot Prayer fans were hoping for a photo featuring the iconic span.
The chicken balloon has also appeared in Washington, glaring at the White House while the president was on vacation.
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