SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee continued to push back against a right-wing 'Patriot Prayer' rally planned at Crissy Field for next Saturday.
Lee says "people are coming in here to threaten violence," and "the latest group that has indicated online and other places that they're going to come is this Oath group, that is known to carry arms in a very public way." The Mayor is referring to Oath Keepers, a national militia group known for being heavily armed.
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Lee says he and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott have been in communication with the National Park Service all week, and are encouraging NPS to reevaluate, or reject the rally permit. The service has approved, but not actually issued the permit, saying in a written statement on Wednesday that they will make a final determination by the end of next week "based on the thorough public safety review."
One major concern among Bay Area residents is that the demonstrators will show up armed with guns. In 2010, Congress enacted a law that allows people to carry loaded guns in National Parks. However, that law does not apply in California, since state law does not allow open-carry.
"If it's an unsafe event, definitely we can shut it down. If it's not, we can facilitate first amendment activity," says Chief Bill Scott. He says those with an appropriate concealed-carry permit can have a gun in accordance with California law. However, Scott also says he's working with the Park Service to create a safe demonstration if they do in fact issue the rally permit. "There are conditions that can be placed in a permit to prohibit weapons within the permitted space."
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"In California alone, since December 2015, we've had 2 dozen violent public political demonstrations," says Professor Brian Levin, Director of the Center of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University San Bernardino who adds "not all of them have been white nationalists, not all of them have been Antifa, but many of them have been."
Professor Levin says police departments and cities should work to create laws against tools of violence.
"No masks, no sticks. Anti-masking ordinances and laws are very important so we can identify people who feel emboldened by their anonymity." He also recommends that police try and keep opposing sides at protests separate.
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