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Far-Right Rally Planned For San Francisco Will Instead Be A "News Conference," Organizer Says

The organizer of the controversial rally said Friday that he would instead hold a news conference at a different location, citing fears of violent clashes with counterprotesters.

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Protesters and counterprotesters argue on Aug. 19 in New Orleans during a demonstration that was held in solidarity with Charlottesville, where an alt-right rally resulted in the death of a protester.

A controversial far-right rally that was planned at a park near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Saturday has been canceled and replaced with a "news conference" at a different park, the organizer announced on Facebook.

Officials had already started setting up metal barricades for the "San Francisco Freedom Rally" at Crissy Field in anticipation of counterprotesters and possible violence given the events in Charlottesville. But in a Facebook Live address, Joey Gibson of the group Patriot Prayer said he would instead hold what he described as a news conference in Alamo Square in San Francisco, as well as attend a right-wing rally dubbed “No Marxism in America” on Sunday in Berkeley, even though officials there have not granted a permit for the event.

But by Friday evening, the status of that event was in doubt as well. Organizer Amber Cummings said in an email to reporters and supporters that she would protest on Sunday in Berkeley, but she hoped no one else would come.

"I just feel that terrorist groups like Antifa and BAMN are trying to incite riots and violence I will not let them succeed," she wrote in a lengthy message, posted by Reveal. "That being said I stress DO NOT ATTEND THIS RALLY PLEASE."

As for Gibson's Saturday rally, federal park authorities had granted a permit to hold the event at Crissy Field, much to the chagrin of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi. But in announcing his new plans, Gibson cited harassment and threats of violence against attendees.

“It really seems like a setup," he said. "A lot of people’s lives are in danger. Nancy Pelosi and a lot of other people are saying we’re white supremacists, and it’s bringing in tons of extremists.

"We’re not going to fall into that trap. We’re not going down to Crissy Field."

He also said he plans to talk about the “rhetoric around the rally” at the news conference in Alamo Square.

Park police had banned weapons from the park and taken other precautions against possible violence at the rally. But Gibson said that he was worried self-proclaimed anti-fascist activists, commonly known as “antifa,” would arrive spoiling for a physical confrontation.

“We hoped that people would be able to be searched and turned away at the park line,” Gibson added. “But it turns out that wasn’t going to happen, and anyone could come in — antifa and white supremacists could have been mingling. It seems like it would have been a huge riot.”

The group Indivisible San Francisco, which had planned the counterprotest “Stand Indivisible with Heather,” said on Facebook it was evaluating what the cancellation would mean for its own gathering. But the Women's March San Francisco said on Facebook that it will go forward with its counterdemonstration.

"We still rally. We still march. We stay vigilant," the group said.

Berkeley has historically had a much stronger violent leftist presence than San Francisco, so it is unlikely that focusing his attention there will lessen the counter response. Gibson, who is from Portland, identifies as a libertarian.

In the wake of the deadly white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, right-wingers have attempted to distance themselves from white nationalists as they’ve planned rallies in Boston and San Francisco. But they’ve achieved little success, as many counterprotests bear titles like “Bay Resistance Organize to End White Supremacy” and “The Bay Shuts Down White Supremacists.”

Blake Montgomery is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Blake Montgomery at blake.montgomery@buzzfeed.com.

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