US & World

San Francisco rally fizzles as counter-protestors show up

AMY OSBORNE/AFP/Getty Images

An organizer for a right-wing group that had planned a rally in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge blasted leaders in San Francisco for stifling his speech.

Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson spoke Saturday in a park in the small city of Pacifica, a suburb of San Francisco.

It marked the latest pivot by the group, which initially intended to stage a rally in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. They scrapped that idea, citing threats from left-wing agitators and worries that civic leaders and law enforcement would fail to protect them.

They instead planned to hold a news conference in Alamo Square Park but protesters showed up. They held signs that read "End White Supremacy" and "Ban Racists" and gathered around the perimeter of the park but were not allowed inside.

The event was quietly moved to Pacifica. Gibson was among half a dozen speakers who had planned to speak at the original rally.

But they abruptly ended the event when they heard members of an anti-fascist movement were headed to Pacifica, saying they didn't want violence.

Earlier in the week, Mayor Ed Lee and others voiced concerns that the group would spark hate and violence, which Gibson denies.

Fellow speaker Will Johnson, who is African American, said he is obviously not a white supremacist and was frustrated about the use of the term in connection with Patriot Prayer and the rally.

"We don't trust this group. I never have from the beginning," Mayor Ed Lee said of Patriot Prayer. He urged counter-protesters to stay away and avoid violence.

"I do believe there are provocateurs in those groups that are intentionally wanting to incite some level of violence," he said.

Tension over the gathering had built in the two weeks since violence erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was charged with murder after driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.