We will be updating throughout the day. If you’ve read the top, jump to the new material below.
By 2 p.m. today, a variety of counter-protests against a right-wing rally called Patriot Prayer arrived in the Mission District. One, a dance party at Dolores Park, drew upwards of 300 people. More than 500 people marched from Alamo Square, where Patriot Prayer organizers had announced they would hold a press conference after canceling their Crissy Field event, to Mission and 24th streets. Meanwhile, a massive counterprotest also gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza and joined another gathering at Civic Center.
“No fear, no registry, stop white supremacy,” the marchers on Mission Street chanted.
(See time-stamped updates throughout the day, below.)
Some 250 to 300 people, some in funny hats and flower crowns, had gathered near the 19th Street palm trees at Dolores Park in one of several events planned to counter the message from those who had planned a Patriot Prayer rally.
The Loved Up event at Dolores Park started at noon with around 100 people and grew over the next hour. Even before it started, a dozen San Francisco police officers were scattered around the perimeter of the park.
Just yesterday, the organizers of the rally that Loved Up was meant to protest canceled their event, settling for a press conference at Alamo Square. Police, however, closed the square.
“I am excited and highly encouraged,” said David Walzer, one of the organizers of Loved Up. “It’s obvious that the original goal of the Patriot Prayer freedom rally was attention and confrontation. The whole strategy is trying to provoke a violent response. It’s obvious that no one really fell for it.”
Walzer said that a key part of defusing the potential for violence was the SFPD’s response and learning from earlier protests that keeping sufficient police presence and keeping opposing groups separated was the key.
“You do that and it defuses everything,” he said. “We’re dancing and they [the Patriot protesters] look like fools.”
If all goes as planned, those gathered in Dolores Park will move on to Harvey Milk Plaza at 1 p.m. Already, helicopters could be heard overhead.
The crowd has grown to 200, and a lot of cake is being handed out.
Michael Dillard and Kim Kirk were wearing their Star Trek T-shirts. Why?
“Think about what Star Trek is — it is a lot of different people all coming together for a common cause.” said Dillard.
“This is the future we want,” said Kirk.
“Contrast that with the other group, that is all about hate,” said Dillard.
“I want to join the dance party with a cake,” said Kim. “It really shows that when people come together in the spirit of nonviolence and solidarity that we can push back on hateful ideals … it’s also San Francisco — they kind of came to the wrong place.”
Counterprotest dance party kicks off in Dolores Park pic.twitter.com/U2nTep641P— Laura Wenus (@LauraWenus) August 26, 2017
What do you dance to at a counter-protest? Apparently “Love Shack” and “Respect.”
Some tweets from elsewhere in the city:
— Dan Noyes (@dannoyes) August 26, 2017
Angela Noble and Toni Marie both appreciated the cancellation of the Patriot Prayer event.
“I respect them for canceling it,” Marie said. “They’re welcome to don some colors and have a nice time if they like.”
Of the dance party, Marie said, “The media really zeroes in on the negative stuff. It’s the new opium for the masses.”
“It’s showing that different people can get together and organize and have a good time and we don’t have to be haters,” Noble said.
The crowd at Dolores Park has grown to close to 300, but not everyone is dancing. Instead, many are sort of bobbing, waiting for the move to Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro. From the sound of the helicopters overhead, there are more people there.
Looks like they will be moving at around 1:45 p.m.
Our political representatives, current and former, are at Harvey Milk Plaza.
On our way to Harvey Milk Plaza – LOVE trumps hate pic.twitter.com/XusjN7234l— Hillary Ronen (@HillaryRonen) August 26, 2017
As the love-in or dance-in waited to move, the masses watched from afar as two banner-tow planes circled the marchers on Market street. One bore a message that appeared to read something like, “hate is a thought so is love.” Another proclaimed, “$130K raised adopt a Nazi not really.”
This is the scene at Harvey Milk Plaza:
— Progressive Militia (@ProgMilitia) August 26, 2017
There is a crowd of 500 or more protesters coming south on Valencia Street toward 16th Street. Lots of police officers are escorting the crowd. They appear to be turning toward Mission Street.
When one marcher appeared ready to start a confrontation, other marchers confronted him and told him to get out. With police nearby watching the scene, he did.
The marchers are headed toward 24th Street on Mission Street. All traffic has been blocked off.
“No fear, no registry, stop white supremacy,” the marchers chanted.
Another counterprotest moves down Mission Street pic.twitter.com/3M0y1L1I7s
— Laura Wenus (@LauraWenus) August 26, 2017
Ricardo Zegri, one of the marchers on Mission Street, said the group had come from Alamo Square, which had been closed off. There was no sign of any right-wing rally, he said, and after they had a rally of their own, they marched from Steiner to Waller to to Market, and then up Valencia to 16th and over to Mission Street. They plan to go to 24th Street.
“It’s been a huge victory, where so many people came out to say, ‘hell no,’” said Zegri. “We scared them back into the shadows where they belong.”
Zegri said he’d been moved to join the counter-protest after hearing President Donald Trump respond to Charlottesville.
“Last week when we heard the President of the United States essentially endorse neo-Nazism, I got sick to my stomach and was unable to sleep,” he said. “It seemed irresponsible to do anything but scream at the top of my lungs.”
Ezequiel Bronstein said to him, much of the political movements recently have been very personal, as a gay jewish immigrant from Latin America.
“It’s important for us to speak up,” he said, then added, “But I present as a white straight male, so I enjoy some privilege. It shouldn’t be like that. So it’s very important for me to stand up.”
Marchers stopped briefly at 22nd and Mission streets, the site of a massive fire in 2015, displacing dozens and killing one. There, neighborhood activist Roberto Hernandez talked to the crowd about displacement.
“A brother died in that building,” Hernandez said. He reminded marchers that Latino families have been displaced from the Mission.
And, then it was onward toward 24th Street. The crowd remained upbeat and peaceful.
The marchers are at the 24th Street BART Plaza and the speeches have begun.
Benjamin Bac Sierra, a vocal advocate for the family of police shooting victim Alex Nieto, encouraged those at the march to make an effort to get to know one another, dance together, even share kisses.
“We defeated white supremacy, we defeated hate,” he told the crowd.
— Laura Wenus (@LauraWenus) August 26, 2017
Meanwhile the Dolores Park dancers had moved on to Harvey Milk Plaza leaving behind those enjoying just another beautiful day at the park.
Chanters and poets have taken over the microphones at 24th Street and so, between spoken word on oppression, there are shouts, “This is the power of the people and we won’t stop,” or, “fuck Trump, fuck Nazis.”
A group of protesters briefly set up rainbow banners surrounding the protest in the middle of the intersection, but those were quickly moved to the plaza.
The march concluded with words from Equipto, a local rapper and and activist; Nicolette Portillo, a Los Angeles-based poet; and Oakland organizer and activist Gina Madrid.
Bac Sierra advised people to get together and dance after the rally, and to take care heading home.
On possible encounters with violent racists, he added, “If you can, handle that shit, but if you feel like you need to take a step back, take out your phone and video them. Put them on blast.”
The speeches are over, the band is playing and the crowd at 24th Street is down to fewer than 100. One protester has set a Trump piñata on fire. A few feet away, there’s live music and dancing.
Mission street is still blocked from 23rd to 26th streets. And while drivers can get through on Bartlett and Capp streets, both are backed up. Advice: If you are parked nearby, wait for a bit. Dance, have a bite…
The crowds have left Harvey Milk, and at Civic Center, the message is love.
— S L Mattocks (@shercares) August 26, 2017
The traffic is flowing again on Mission Street, Capp and Bartlett, and the police are leaving the scene.
We will keep an eye on Dolores Park, but otherwise we won’t be updating until something happens.
Julian Mark and Mark Rabine contributed to this report.