By mislabeling the Patriot Prayer group as “white supremacists,” Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee forced the group to cancel their event at Crissy Field, scheduled for Saturday, August 26.
Joey Gibson, who organized the event before it was called off, appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” the evening prior to explain what the intention of the event had been, as he had done previously. “The whole point of the rally was just to promote freedom, love, peace, bring people together, moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats. You know, it was about letting go of the politics and coming together on things we can all agree on,” Gibson shared during the August 25 segment.
Gibson offered that it was his group’s detractors which are the ones who are aligned with extremists, saying that Pelosi and other officials “brought in as many extremists as they could, and they did everything to rile Antifa up.”
By failing to call out Antifa for being “violent and hateful,” Pelosi and other officials are to blame for the situation “getting out of control,” Gibson believed. The Patriot Prayer group “felt like they were trying to start a riot,” according to Gibson, who believed “there were some major players going on” which put the event “out of our control.”
As local and national reporting covered, many in the Patriot Prayer groups, and others in the streets over the weekend, were met by violent Antifa activists.
Similarly to his previous appearance, Gibson—who is not white—emphasized he does not espouse white supremacy beliefs, but rather it is his beliefs of love, freedom, and unity which makes him a target. For that, he specifically blames the Washington elite he believes Pelosi is part of. “These politicians, they make their career based off of dividing the nation, dividing the voters, so that we fight,” he said.
Gibson did, however, offer a method of counteracting such division. “The truth is if we came together, if moderates came together, we would see through their lies, get rid of these career politicians, and people would eventually realize that Nancy Pelosi is no different than like John McCain. She’s just another corrupt politician taking advantage of her constituents.”
Despite his emphasis on moderates, and his criticism for both Democratic and Republican politicians, Gibson’s group was referred to as a “right-wing group” by ABC 7 News coverage of Saturday’s chaos. KQED News’ headline read that “S.F. Right-Wing Rally Canceled as Bay Area Officials Push Back Against Fringe-Right Rallies.”
The Washington Post referred to the Patriot Prayer group as part of the “peaceful right-wing protesters” in their headline. Many other events and counter-events were scheduled to happen that day and called off, including those who planned to protest by not cleaning up after dogs they were walking, lending to further confusion and chaos.
Gibson was one of those present who were assaulted, according to the Washington Post, which may explain the puzzlement from ABC 7 News regarding press conferences. He did speak to reporters late Saturday afternoon at Crissy Field, according to SFGate.com, where he emphasized his blame for Pelosi and Lee and denied he held white supremacist beliefs.
Mayor Lee laid blame on Gibson and Patriot Prayer, according to several news stations. “We don’t trust this group,” Lee said, according to ABC 7 News. “I never have from the beginning,” he added. He also believed that there were “provocateurs in those groups that are intentionally wanting to incite some level of violence.”
Initially, Lee advised counter-protesters not to engage with Patriot Prayer, which he used as a further opportunity to criticize the group, saying their “only priority is to incite violence through divisive rhetoric.”
On Saturday evening, however, Lee not only categorized the day’s events as peaceful, but congratulated counter-protesters as well. “They marched in the mission. They marched in the Castro. They marched in Alamo Square. They made sure the themes of love and compassion dominated over hate speech.”
In their reporting, the Washington Post, while acknowledging that Antifa members attacked demonstrators, seemed to blame President Trump for the violence:
And although the anti-hate and left-wing protesters largely drowned out the smaller clutch of far-right marchers attending a planned “No to Marxism in America” rally, Sunday’s confrontation marked another street brawl between opposing ends of the political spectrum — violence that has become a regular feature of the Trump years and gives signs of spiraling upward, particularly in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville.
Despite reporting that Gibson had been arrested, a Patriot Prayer Facebook post from Sunday said “Note–Joey is NOT in jail, and has NOT been arrested. He was cuffed and released after being shoved through the police line.”