I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Permit application documents reveal federal park officials' security concerns for Crissy Field rally

Dan Noyes Image
Thursday, August 17, 2017
I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Permit application documents reveal security federal park officials' concerns for Crissy Field rally
The organizer of a right wing rally set for San Francisco's Crissy Field in 10 days isn't the only one concerned about violence erupting during the event.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The organizer of a right wing rally set for San Francisco's Crissy Field in 10 days isn't the only one concerned about violence erupting during the event.

RELATED: New breed of white nationalist leadership based in California

The ABC7 I-Team has obtained documents, including an email chain, that provides insight into the plan for the event and the concerns federal officials have about security and the possibility of violent clashes.

The man organizing the rally is Joey Gibson of Vancouver, Washington. He's a Portland real estate investor who founded a group called Patriot Prayer.

Gibson told ABC7 I-Team Reporter Dan Noyes, "The park service is working directly with the feds and the police to make sure that we have an awesome game plan."

But leaders including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and United States Senator Dianne Feinstein both called for the Federal Park Service to rescind Gibson's permit and for the rally to be canceled.

The man with the rally plan:

Gibson says he started his group after supporters of Donald Trump were attacked at a campaign event in San Jose last June.

RELATED: Violence breaks out at Trump rally, protesters arrested

"It doesn't matter if it was a Trump rally or a Hilary Clinton rally, that shouldn't happen to anybody, something in my life changed at that moment in time."

Gibson says he started organizing Trump rallies-some of those events ended in violent confrontations with counter protesters. But in recent weeks, especially after the Charlottesville violence and the death of Heather Heyer, Gibson says he's trying to distance himself from extremists on both sides.

"We have to have respect for each other, we can disagree but we don't have to name call. When you name call, you have nothing intelligent to say," he said.

Dan Noyes asked Gibson, "Does it concern you that some of these extremists, these white nationalist groups are glomming on to your rallies, that they will be showing up as well?"

"It's a constant problem, these people, these people are trying to latch on because they have nothing," Gibson said.

Documents obtained by the ABC7 I-Team under the Freedom of Information Act show what Gibson is planning for the rally on August 26th.

In his application for a permit he describes the event as a, "Free Speech Rally. Live music, sound system and a generator."

He indicates there will be, "No fees, no selling, no donations," and it will be "Open to the public."

Set up for the rally begins at 11 a.m. with the event starting at 2 p.m. and ending at 5 p.m.

Gibson paid a $45 fee to file the application for a permit.

RELATED: Lawmakers slam Trump's latest defense of Charlottesville response

Why here?

Dan Noyes asked Gibson, "What's the point of the rally in San Francisco?"

He replied, "To promote freedom, love and unity."

In an email chain obtained by the I-Team, a National Park Service executive lets Gibson know she is concerned.

Golden Gate National Recreation Chief of Special Park Uses Noemi Robinson sent an email to Gibson on Monday saying, "As you can imagine, some of our plans have changed in response to this weekend's tragic events in Charlottesville. I know that isn't your group, but we are not expecting all the counter-protesters to know that."

Gibson responds saying he expects protests, "because politicians and media have falsely accused Patriot Prayer as a white supremacist rally."

White nationalist groups that have supported Gibson in the past apparently didn't catch that he isn't white.

He's of Japanese descent.

"It's funny to me when people have an ideology were they believe like the white race is better and they try to team up with me you know, it's really frustrating," Gibson said.

No matter what Gibson's background and his motives, the rally in ten days is bound to attract extremists from both sides. The only question that remains is how good a job will the authorities do in preventing violence.

A San Francisco Police spokesperson said the department is continuing to evaluate the situation and they are working with other city departments and federal park officials to develop a plan to keep everybody safe during the rally.

Golden Gate National Recreation Chief of Special Park Uses Noemi Robinson declined to speak to us about this story.

A statement from Acting General Superintendent Cicely Muldoon of the National Park Police was released on the Patriot Prayer rally: We have heard and take very seriously the concerns expressed by the public and elected officials regarding the proposed August 26 Patriot Prayer First Amendment event at Crissy Field. Our highest priority is to ensure public safety, while honoring our obligation to uphold one of our nation's most cherished Constitutional rights, the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

We are guided by the Constitution, the law, longstanding court precedent, and National Park Service policy, which tells us we must be deliberative and not preemptive in our decisions related to First Amendment gatherings. Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the U.S. Park Police are closely coordinating with other federal, state and local agencies to ensure a robust plan is in place before we issue a final permit.

We want to thank everyone for expressing their heartfelt opinions and valid concerns. Anyone interested in expressing their opinion may do so by writing us at goga_1st_amendment@nps.gov. We are reviewing all comments, but we are not able to respond to everyone due to the large volume we are receiving.

We will make a final determination on the permit within the next seven business days based on the thorough public safety review. We will make a public announcement of our decision at that time.

Click here to read correspondence associated with safety risks for this event.

Click here to view the document for permit application.

Click herefor more stories, photos, and video on President Donald Trump.