Joey Gibson describes himself as Japanese American and a defender of free speech.
The leader of the group Patriot Prayer says he has nothing to do with White supremacists, but his rallies have attracted neo-Nazis, members of the alt right and White nationalists, according to the SF Examiner
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have described Gibson’s group as hateful and citing the potential of violence, have urged the National Park Service to deny a permit for a planned rally as San Francisco’s Crissy Field. Past Patriotic Prayer rallies in Portland and Seattle have sparked clashes between protesters and counter-protesters.
“We won’t let any extremists speak. We’ll let moderates speak. It’s a big part of the goal,” said Gibson to the Examiner. “We have 10 speakers now, and out of them, we have one White male speaking. There’s guy named Jake Von Ott, with Identity Europa, we tried not to let him in. There’s nothing we can do about [him attending]. We don’t want him there. We made signs saying we don’t support Identity Europa. I’ve literally disowned White supremacists [in his videos]. It’s getting old. We will not let them in. We’re not going to let the flags in. I give you my word, it’s a promise.”
Others, however, say Gibson’s arguments for free speech are a guise, according to the SF Chronicle.
“The strategy is relatively clever,” said Randy Blazak, a professor from the University of Oregon who has studied hate groups for 20 years. “They go into liberal country and get the organized left to attack them and then look like victims.”
Blazak says counter-protesters are playing into Gibson’s hands, especially when they resist with acts of violence. It reinforces arguments from the “‘alt-right’ that there’s no free speech allowed for white men.”
The leftist group Antifa which has been known to use violence to oppose White nationalists isn’t persuaded.
“He’s (Gibson) creating a space where White supremacists and racist groups can come out and do their own organizing,” said a man who identified himself only as David, a spokesman for Antifa in Portland . “They feel comfortable in the space he’s created.”
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