With all-hands-on-deck police action, Calif. cities prepare for rallies
Their answer so far is huge officer manpower and tighter restrictions on the demonstrators
By Casey Tolan and Angela Ruggiero
East Bay Times
SAN FRANCISCO — With hundreds of protesters expected to turn out to two “free speech” rallies in the Bay Area this weekend, police leaders and local officials are now fine-tuning plans to prevent a repeat of the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Their answer so far: huge officer manpower and tighter restrictions on the demonstrators.
In San Francisco, every single police officer will be on duty on Saturday, when a right-wing rally is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at Crissy Field. “Days off have been canceled,” said Officer Giselle
Linnane, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Police Department.Across the bay in Berkeley, city officials are working to issue new rules for protests lacking city permits, as is the case with Sunday’s “No to Marxism in America” rally at Civic Center Park. The new rules, put into force under a hastily passed ordinance, could include a ban of items that could be turned into weapons.
The organizers of the two protests say they have no ties to racist groups. But Bay Area elected officials have condemned both events as “white nationalist” rallies.
"Today and always, we stand together as a community against bigotry, racism, and intolerance – and we are stronger for it,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said Tuesday on the steps of City Hall. “As mayor, I am working closely with officials at every level of government — including various law enforcement agencies — to keep the peace on Sunday.”
Arreguin said that the city still hasn’t received any permit applications for the rally, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. And on Friday, the City Council passed a new ordinance allowing the city manager to issue rules for unpermitted protests. The city manager’s office and the Berkeley police department did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
Berkeley rally organizer Amber Cummings told Bay City News that she doesn’t want white nationalists to attend her event. She said she organized the event long before the events in Charlottesville and called Arreguin’s characterization of the rally as a white supremacy event “an outright lie.”
The situation in San Francisco is complicated by the fact that the rally is planned to be held in a national park, within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The National Park Service issued a permit for the rally earlier this month but agreed to review it after an outcry from city officials.
Joey Gibson, the organizer of the event — whose group, Patriot Prayer, has held events well-attended by white nationalist and other right-wing groups in the past — said in an interview Tuesday that he expected his permit would win final approval and “they just haven’t finalized the paperwork.”
Dana Polk, a spokeswoman for the park service, said in an email late Tuesday that there was “no news yet.”
The U.S. Park Police, which will be leading the law enforcement response to the rally, did not respond to a request for comment. But Linnane said the San Francisco Police Department has been holding meetings with the Park Police to plan their response.
“Our main goal is nonviolence and to help protect ralliers exercising their First Amendment rights,” Linnane said. “We’ll be ready if there’s anybody bringing in weapons.”
Officials in both cities are urging residents not to counter-protest at the scene of the events in the hope to avoid violent clashes. “We don’t want nonviolent protesters to be in a situation where they can be in a middle of a fight,” Arreguin said.
Lines of counter-protesters facing off with right-wing demonstrators are exactly what hate groups want, said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, who represents Berkeley and a swath of the East Bay.
“They only get attention when we give it to them,” Skinner said, quoting former first lady Michelle Obama: “‘When they go low, we go high.'”
But some locals, including Reiko Redmonde of the “Refuse Facism” group, said residents should show up and send a strong message condemning the hate groups.
“Maybe people are risking their safety, but shouldn’t people have risked their safety early on in the Nazi regime when Hitler came to power?” Redmonde asked. “Shouldn’t they have stood out and not let their neighbors be taken away?”
Also on Tuesday, Skinner introduced new legislation that would broaden the state’s hate crime statute.
In Charlottesville on Aug. 12, Heather Heyer, who is white, was murdered after a white nationalist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
If Heyer had died the same way in California, the driver wouldn’t face hate crime charges because the state’s statute only covers crimes committed against people in a “protected class,” such as a racial minority.
Under Skinner’s bill, SB 630, the hate crime statute would also protect people acting in support of or in defense of protected groups.
©2017 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)