Two right-leaning rallies in the Bay Area were canceled over the weekend by organizers over fears of violence, but that didn’t stop leftist radicals from creating chaos.
Berkeley police reportedly made 14 arrests Sunday as thousands of counter-protesters flooded Civic Center Park in Berkeley, even though the previously scheduled “No to Marxism in America” rally had been canceled the day before.
Hundreds of black-clad antifa activists jumped police barricades and tracked down the small number of Trump supporters who showed up anyway, beating up at least one man and hitting another with sticks, as shown on video from KCRA-TV in Sacramento.
One of those targeted was Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer, who was chased and pepper-sprayed by a mob of leftist protesters before being rescued by police, according to SFGate.
Mr. Gibson canceled his group’s Freedom Rally before it was scheduled to begin Saturday at Crissy Field in San Francisco, saying he feared it would erupt into a “huge riot” fueled by activists from the antifa and By Any Means Necessary.
The rally had met with resistance from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other San Francisco Democrats, who characterized the event as a white nationalist gathering despite Mr. Gibson’s insistence that the event was aimed at promoting freedom and unity.
“It was the best thing to do for the city because the way it was set up is that a lot of innocent people were going to get hurt,” Mr. Gibson said during a press conference on Facebook Live. “That’s a fact. A bunch of supporters, a bunch of antifa communists, normal liberals would have all been mixed together. It would have been a huge riot, and it would have been a disaster.”
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee had urged residents instead to attend a rally at Civic Center Plaza, and thousands did, holding a “unite against hate” march while carrying anti-Trump signs and an enormous rainbow banner that said, “Rise and Resist!”
At a Saturday press conference, Mr. Lee applauded the counterprotesters, who “made sure that the face of love and compassion dominated over hate speech and inciting of violence.”
Mrs. Pelosi had called on the National Park Service to reconsider Patriot Prayer’s permit, describing the event as a “white supremacist rally.”
“Reason has prevailed because the people of San Francisco have demonstrated our determination to protect the freedom of peaceful expression as well as public safety,” Mrs. Pelosi said Saturday in a statement to the San Jose Mercury News.
But Mr. Gibson accused Mr. Lee and Mrs. Pelosi of stoking unrest by labeling the event as a white supremacy fest, even though most of the scheduled speakers were not white and Mr. Gibson himself is half-Asian.
“To call us white supremacists made San Francisco way more dangerous,” Mr. Gibson said.
He also accused Democrats of hypocrisy on protester violence: “You have a mayor who says that we’re hateful, we’re violent, he doesn’t bring up any specific examples, but he doesn’t mention one word about antifa. Not one word.”
The rally was billed as a “day of freedom, spirituality, unity, peace, and patriotism,” and Mr. Gibson gave assurances on Facebook beforehand that “no extremists will be allowed in,” including Nazis, anti-fascists (antifa), the Ku Klux Klan and white nationalists.
Even so, he said he was being menaced Saturday by antifa and By Any Means Necessary activists who followed the Patriot Prayer organizers and used Twitter to announce their whereabouts.
“Basically all day, this is what it’s going to be like,” he said. “We’re going from spot to spot trying to hide from people who dress like ninjas, who run around, they want to burn stuff down, they want to commit violence, they want to use bike locks, they want to use clubs with nails through them.”
He did turn up later in the day at various locations, including Crissy Field, to speak to small bands of supporters, according to SFGate.
Mr. Gibson, who lives in Vancouver, Washington, started Patriot Prayer earlier this year to support President Trump, but has since placed the emphasis on fighting extremism on the left and the right in order to promote peace and unity.
His rallies in Portland and Seattle have attracted members of white-nationalist groups like Identity Evropa, which Mr. Gibson said he has tried to discourage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which does not list Patriot Prayer as a hate group, has criticized the rallies for drawing the “alt-right” while crediting Mr. Gibson for speaking out against white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
“At the end of the day, I just want a small government, and then there will be no tyrants,” Mr. Gibson said. “And we will be free people in a free society who can respect one another.”