OAKLAND — A day after the shocking events in Charlottesville that left one counterprotester and two state patrolmen dead and dozens injured, hundreds came downtown to Latham Square to listen to a lineup of activists and organizers stand in solidarity and prepare to move against upcoming Bay Area gatherings of alt-right sympathizers and white nationalists.
“We know these neo-Nazis, these alt-right folks are on their way to Berkeley and San Francisco on the 26th and 27th,” Anti Police-Terror Project co-founder Cat Brooks said to applause.
“As opposed to waiting for those days to come out in droves to tell them they’re not welcome here, we figured we’d start now. … You are not welcome in the bay. We are not scared of you. We will not stay inside. We do not cower to bullies, and these are our streets.”
One rally, sponsored by a group called Patriot Prayer, is planned for Aug. 26 at San Francisco’s Crissy Field to promote “free speech, unity and peace,” while another rally the following day at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park is aimed to counter Marxism in America with a lineup of alt-right speakers.
Another organizer, Terri Kay, said distinctions among white nationalist sympathizer groups were only significant in terms of demonstrating opposition.
“We’re going to stand with our fellow folks against the murder and injuries that happened there, and the violence against normal everyday people. They don’t want white supremacists in their town, and we certainly don’t want them here,” Kay said. “They call this thing ‘Unite the Right.’ They’re trying to put all their forces together under Trump. Frankly we need to understand the differences to some degree, but we’re against all of them.”
Community READY Corps founder Tur-Ha Ak questioned the free-speech rationale offered by governments and civil-liberties groups to allow groups to gather and organize, such as previous violent gatherings in Berkeley this year.
“Why are these people allowed to come in on a regular basis? An explanation of free speech is not good enough, it’s not sufficient, especially after we know all these people who are congregating, we can go to their Facebook pages, we can go to their websites and they profess violence,” he said.
“They’re still allowed to come and be in these spaces without opposition, but given city permits and the protection of police departments to come and engage in this behavior.”
Ak said the APTP plans to discuss further political, legal and digital efforts at a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday evening at the Eastside Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd.
On foot and in groups, Oakland police maintained a watchful distance from protesters. In a statement Sunday afternoon, police said they were aware of today’s gathering and others set for the evening.
“We encourage those who are visiting or may live in our city and will be participating, to have a peaceful and respectful gathering. The Department has increased our staffing and aligned resources to facilitate a safe environment for those who are participating,” the statement said.
Other vigils were held or planned Sunday throughout the country and the Bay Area, including in Berkeley, at City Hall in San Francisco, at Alameda City Hall, at the Contra Costa County Courthouse in Martinez, at Adobe Park in Castro Valley and at Poinsett Park in El Cerrito, at San Jose City Hall, Mountain View’s Gateway Park, at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, at the Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center and at the Santa Cruz Clock Tower.
“We are committed to holding the Constitutional right to free speech and peaceful assembly, however we will enforce all laws regarding violent acts against each other and/or the police, vandalism, trespassing or other criminal activity.”
In Alameda, about 40 to 50 people showed up between 5 and 6 p.m. for a hastily arranged vigil that included Councilman Jim Oddie, Vice Mayor Malia Vella and community activist John Knox White. A local rabbi began the vigil with a prayer.
“I think we need to show that we’re against this hate and bigotry,” Oddie said.
Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180.
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