An Oregon-based free speech group, Patriot Prayer, has been granted a permit by the National Park Service to hold a rally at Crissy Field in San Francisco on Saturday, sparking outrage and name-calling by liberals, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the city’s Mayor Ed Lee.
At an event in San Francisco on Tuesday, local television station KPIX 5 asked Pelosi about the labeling of the group as white supremacist.
“Pelosi said Crissy Field is a special place,” KPIX 5 reported.
“And now they’re going to give it as a venue to Nazis and white nationalists,” Pelosi said.
“I ask our public and our residents of the San Francisco Bay Area to honor our request to not dignify people who are coming in here under the guise of patriot and prayer words to really preach violence and hatred and to incite violence,” Lee, who is also Asian, said at a press conference on Tuesday after the National Park Service issued a permit for the protest, the San Francisco Examiner reported.
But Joey Gibson, who founded the Patriot Prayer group, told a local Fox affiliate that he has openly denounced white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
“I’m Japanese,” Gibson said. “We have three black speakers, a couple Hispanic, an atheist, a transsexual…We’re extremely diverse.”
“It’s really irresponsible for the leaders to call me a white supremacist,” Gibson added. “It’s completely unfounded.”
“The things I talk about, the things that I preach has nothing to do with skin color,” Gibson said. In the interview he outlined that he looks to God and Jesus for his values. “It has to do with what’s on the inside.”
Gibson said it is the counter-protestors who incite violence and try to “hi-jack” the message at these kind of rallies and called on Pelosi and Lee to denounce them.
“Why don’t you speak out about antifa?” Gibson said. “These guys are going to show up with a thousands of people all dressed in black and they promote violence, they promote hate.”
“I don’t,” Gibson said. “But I don’t see them speaking out about antifa.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is being sued by a Christian group who said it has been defamed by being listed on the organization’s “hate map,” has not included Gibson or his group on the map and, in fact, wrote an article about him saying that he has allowed diverse speakers at his protests and had denounced white supremacy and Nazis.
“We have too many people right now who believe someone is an enemy because they have a different ideological perspective and we have to get beyond that,” Gibson told Fox. “We has so much hatred and so much division in this country and if we don’t handle that at a grassroots level I do believe this country will burn.”
In a letter to NPS before the permit was approved, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also condemned Patriot Prayer, which she wrote “attracts white nationalists and other hate groups to its rallies with the intent to provoke unrest between those groups and counter-protesters.”
The NPS responded to complaints about the protest permit by issuing a statement.
“We cannot deny a permit to anyone planning to exercise their First Amendment rights based on their political stance or beliefs,” the statement said. “We can deny a permit application for public safety reasons if the event raises such significant public safety concerns that law enforcement cannot manage the event.”
A number of counter protests are planned around the free speech rally, including one on Friday with Lee and other city officials.