(Update: Patriot Prayer canceled its planned rally at Crissy Field, and plans to proceed with a press conference in a different location today. Leader Joey Gibson said, “After several conversations with the police, and understanding the situation, we’ve decided that tomorrow really feels like a set-up … We’re not going to fall into that trap.” Instead, the group plans to hold a press conference today at Alamo Square.)
It started as a joke, and then picked up steam, becoming a fully formed Facebook event — a peaceful (and poopful) plot to disrupt a far-right “Freedom Rally” from a safe distance.
Those participating plan to go to San Francisco’s Crissy Field — the public park where the far-right rally will take place — and place some land mines, with a little help from their dogs.
The organizers encouraged people to bring their dogs to the park beforehand to “leave a gift for our Alt-Right friends … Take your dog to Crissy Field and let them do their business and be sure not to clean it up!”
The hosts of the event have promised to clean it all up after the rally.
The “Freedom Rally” near the Golden Gate Bridge is sponsored by a group called “Patriot Prayer,” which many local officials say is a front for white supremacists, Nazis and other extremists.
Politicians and public officials in the Bay Area are denouncing the rally and say the National Park Service should not have issued the group a permit.
According to the Washington Post, the rally is one of several protests and counter-protests planned around San Francisco Saturday afternoon.
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi described the rally as “white supremacist,” saying she had “grave concerns about the public safety hazard”
it could create.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee characterized the events as “hate-filled extremist rallies” and said the participants’ “only priority is to incite violence through divisive rhetoric.”
As for the organization, Patriot Prayer, it is led by an Oregon activist named Joey Gibson, who is Japanese American. The group has previously organized rallies in the Portland area that escalated to violence.
Gibson, on Facebook, says his group is not white supremacist or neo-Nazi. In a Facebook event posting for Saturday’s rally, he said, “No extremists will be allowed in. No Nazis, Communist, KKK, Antifa, white supremacist, I.E., or white nationalists. This is an opportunity for moderate Americans to come in with opposing views. We will not allow the extremists to tear apart this country.”
We’re not sure how — at least until a walk-through extremist detector is invented — that can be achieved. Gibson said those attending the rally will be a diverse group whose members believe in freedom.
Like many local leaders, a San Francisco artist who calls himself Tuffy Tuffington doesn’t believe that. It was while walking his dogs at Crissy Field that he came up with the idea of a peaceful way to protest and disrupt the rally.
“My dogs were doing their business, Tuffington, 45, told the Post, “and I was struck with the image of a bunch of alt-right folks stomping around in a field of poop.”
It’s the kind of symbolic image — jackboots landing in dog poop — that any artist would love, not to mention writers of headlines, like this one in The Guardian: “Turd Reich: San Francisco dog owners lay minefield of poo for rightwing rally.”
Tuffington posted the call for dog poop last week and has heard back from 980 people who say they will participate and 5,300 more who say they are interested.
As you might expect, his plot is being criticized as well — mainly by those who see it as defiling a much-loved park, and environmentally harming they bayside.
Patriot Prayer’s Gibson says the rally’s participants aren’t going to be deterred by a little dog poop, or even a lot of dog poop.
“I don’t think someone is going to step on a pile of dog poop and be like ‘I’m convinced, I shouldn’t be here, I need to change my ideology,'” he told NBC Bay Area.
Tuffington says he plans to stay safely away from the park Saturday, at least until night falls and the rally is over.
Then, he says, the scooping will begin.
(Top photo of Crissy Park by Eric Risberg/AP; photo of Tuffy Tuffington provided by Tuffy Tuffington, graphic from the Facebook page of Tuffy Tuffington)