The first of this weekend’s counter-rallies took place last Friday at Civic Center, where around 400 counter-protesters held “#UniteAgainstHate” signs and Mayor Ed Lee, along with a diverse set of speakers, condemned Saturday’s white supremacist rally.
“San Francisco is a city of love and compassion and we will always lead with love and compassion,” said Lee. “That is why it is important that we are all here together the day before hate shows up on our shores.”
The counter-rally was organized by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, a department of the County of San Francisco that serves as a liaison between the community and the Board of Supervisors to increase equality and eradicate discrimination.
The series of counter-rallies that happened around San Francisco this weekend were aimed to deter people from the Alamo Square Park rally, which remained relatively calm and promoted peaceful behavior for the right-wing protesters and counter-protesters that showed up.
“San Francisco has a long history of honoring freedom of expression, but hate speech has no place in our city,” the rally’s Facebook event said.
The event had a running theme of love, justice and peace as hip-hop artist MC Hammer, the president of the San Francisco branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Amos Brown, Supervisor London Breed and other notable leaders spoke.
San Francisco was referred to as “the city that invented love” by Rabbi Noa Kushner.
“Let the world shake all around us,” said Kushner in her speech. “Let the provocations fly. Let the president try to distort the truth. It doesn’t matter. We stand together.”
There were also two speeches from those directly affected by hate crimes, one of whom was Chris Lejeune, whose brother was stabbed to death on a train in Portland after trying to defend two women of color from a white supremacist.
“I will never see my brother again in this life. I will miss him everyday but there are no words for how proud I am. He stood up for what was right that day. He stood up for love,” Lejeune said. “When I heard that the same white supremacist group who radicalized my brother’s murderer was coming to my community too, I knew I needed to stand up with love.”
One SF State student was concerned over the upcoming demonstrations slated to disrupt both ends of the Bay Area.
“As an undocumented student, I am very upset about the Nazis and the KKK coming tomorrow. I think the government allowing them to come puts us in a dangerous place and it just makes it seem like they are supported,” said Maria, an SF State student who declined to give her last name. “There is not many people here so I think a lot more people are willing to come tomorrow instead of today because they want to see the action.”
The Glide Ensemble, a choir that promotes diversity and acceptance, sang “Oh Happy Day” as the small, yet jovial crowd applauded in unity against the far-right protesters planning to attend the weekend’s rallies.