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Bay Area Braces For Possible Protests


The San Francisco Bay area had been bracing for a weekend of protests and counter-protests, but organizers of a far-right event planned for San Francisco today have canceled it. Now there are questions about whether a demonstration planned in Berkeley tomorrow will go forward. We have reporter Scott Shafer from member station KQED standing by in San Francisco. Scott, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: This group, Patriot Prayer, was organizing today's main event in San Francisco. Why did they call it off?

SHAFER: Well, the group's organizer, his name is Joey Gibson - he lives in Oregon, by the way - suddenly announced Friday afternoon he was canceling the rally because, in his words, all the rhetoric from people like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, other politicians, the media, he said that was attracting extremists who are likely, in his words, to incite a riot. He called it a setup. And so he canceled that rally, which was going to be held at Crissy Field. That's in a national park over near Golden Gate - near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Instead, Bishop (ph) is holding what he calls a press conference. Now, that's in a much, much smaller neighborhood park right in the middle of the city. And he's going to have the same lineup of speakers that original rally had. Now, the thing is, no permit has been issued for this new event. And unlike the rally that he canceled, security arrangements have really not been well thought out. It's very impromptu, so it adds a measure of unpredictability.

SIMON: San Francisco and Berkeley, for that matter, have an awful lot of experience with demonstrations over the years. Has the city made changes in light of what they saw in Charlottesville?

SHAFER: Well, you know, it seems that these right-wing groups picked liberal places like San Francisco and Berkeley in hopes of creating a kind of confrontation with people opposed to their message. And so yeah, local law enforcement was working very closely with the National Park Police for today's original event in San Francisco. But now that's canceled, and that permit that was issued by the federal government had very strict limits of what could be brought in - no weapons of any kind, not even selfie sticks or anything else that could possibly be used as weapons. That permit's now been pulled.

So the new park where this so-called press conference is going to take place, much harder to secure, Scott, than the original location. The original place was near the coast, making access to it much harder. So we're going to have to see whether city officials even allow this event to proceed. They say they're going to keep a close eye on it.

SIMON: And there was this other rally planned by far-right groups across the Bay in Berkeley tomorrow. What's the organizer of that event saying about it now?

SHAFER: Yeah. Well, that demonstration always seemed to have the potential for more problems because it's a little more loosely organized. It's - it was organized by an anti-left group. That event is called No to Marxism in America. Now, Berkeley, the city, had already denied them a permit on technical grounds, but the city was preparing for them to come anyway.

Now, there are no restrictions that have been announced on what you could bring in to that event, so that was a little worrisome. And, of course, we've seen, as you mentioned, violent activities in Berkeley in the past when right-wing speakers came to town. So law enforcement officials say they're prepared, but we'll see what happens.

SIMON: And in the 20 seconds we have left, there were so many counter-demonstrations being planned for the Bay Area, what happens to them now that the actual demonstrations may not take place?

SHAFER: Well, you know, this is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love out here, Scott. On the front steps of City Hall today, there's going to be a peace, love and understanding gathering against hate. There's going to be another rally in the city's Castro District. Drag queens will no doubt be out in force. And the hope is that these more sort of peaceful, fun rallies will overshadow anything that left-wing groups like, say, antifa or any of the far-right groups try to do. They're hoping that those things get overshadowed.

SIMON: Reporter Scott Shafer at KQED in San Francisco. Thanks so much for being with us.

SHAFER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Scott Shafer