Three people who sought permits to hold separate events in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park on Sunday were rejected by the city this week. There’s no indication any of the events will be called off as a result, however.
The city of Berkeley released the rejection letters, dated Aug. 23, to the public late Thursday. The city is bracing for an influx of activists and counter-protesters Sunday after three political demonstrations earlier this year, in March and April, at times turned violent and led to brawling in the streets. At least one organization rescheduled a large event originally set to take place downtown Sunday, and the Berkeley Art Museum has announced it will close Sunday “due to multiple rallies and large crowds expected in the immediate vicinity of the museum.” The city has implored community members to stay away from Civic Center Park.
The event permits came from transgender Trump supporter Amber Cummings; Victor Pinho, who is raising money to fight hate groups; and Berkeleyan Roberto Santiago, who wrote he may bring about 500 people to the park. His event is also in opposition to the Cummings rally, Berkeleyside learned after publication.
In fact, it’s rare for anyone to secure permits for demonstrations in Berkeley; the city requests but does not require them.
Cummings of Antioch has said her event is open to all patriots except racists or people who want to cause violence. She submitted the permit for her rally, called “No to Marxism in America,” Aug. 17, according to the city. She said earlier this week she came up with the idea in June. Staff wrote in the rejection letter that the application was incomplete, late and failed to account for security arrangements, and that Cummings invalidated the document by disagreeing in writing with one of the city’s rules.
The city also said any applications for amplified sound must be filed 30 days prior to an event, and that Cummings missed the deadline. That can trigger an automatic denial. Cummings also failed to provide photo identification and did not say which area of the park she wants to use, the city wrote.
Cummings — who has said she expects about 300 people Sunday — has not responded to several interview requests from Berkeleyside. But Ansen Hatcher, an Idaho man who said he is helping organize the anti-Marxist rally in Berkeley as well as an event the prior day in San Francisco, wrote on Berkeleyside on Thursday night that “these events are going to press forward with or without permits.”
Another applicant, Pinho, had asked for a permit for up to 50 attendees, and filed his papers Aug. 18, according to the city. His application was missing information similar to Cummings’s, staff wrote: photo ID, a specific location in the park, and arrangements for security, first aid and medical treatment.
On Facebook, he called his event “Berkeley Loves a Freakshow: An Anti-Nazi Fundraiser to End Hate.” Thirty-five people have said they are going, and another 25 have said they are interested.
“They are showing up to incite anger, hatred, and violence. Don’t give it to them,” he wrote. “We will peacefully demonstrate by ‘cheering on’ the Nazis with signs and smiles as every step they take raises money to defeat them. We will remind them of how much was raised, and we will even provide some sustenance — free bananas. Because we all know how hard it must be carrying around so much hate.”
Any money raised will go to the organization “Life After Hate,” he wrote. The nonprofit says it “serves to inspire individuals to a place of compassion and forgiveness for themselves and for all people.”
The third applicant, Santiago, who filed his request Aug. 16, got rejected for similar reasons: missing deadlines and incomplete information. He told the city he wants to have a potluck or picnic area, but also wrote that food would not be served, according to the city. He wrote that he planned to install tents but provided no further detail, the city wrote. (Santiago created the popular “Your Mom is so Berkeley” Facebook group, which has previously been featured on Berkeleyside.)
The city told all three applicants it is aware of several demonstrations and rallies planned in Berkeley on Sunday, Aug. 27, and is working on coming up with robust plans and resources to protect life and property while allowing events to proceed.
“The City is committed to upholding First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly while taking measures to ensure that any rallies or demonstrations remain peaceful,” reads the letter, which is signed by Deputy City Manager Jovan Grogan.
City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley is out of town through Aug. 24, according to an automatic reply from her email address Thursday.
Last week, in an emergency meeting of the Berkeley City Council held Friday afternoon, officials gave the city manager’s office the authority to issue temporary rules for large public events without city permits. The intention is in part to let the city ban items that could be used as weapons at rallies. The city can already make rules for public parks and other city property, but the new policy lets the city manager create new regulations outside the park Sunday.
The city has not announced what those rules might be, but the mayor said earlier this week that more information is forthcoming. The last time the city issued a weapons ban, details were released less than 24 hours in advance of the related event.
On Tuesday, a group of political leaders held a press conference at City Hall to speak out against hate and bigotry. Wednesday, Mayor Jesse Arreguín announced a new poster campaign, “Berkeley stands united against hate,” he hopes will allow community members to express their opposition to the Cummings rally without showing up in person.
The “anti-Marxist” rally Sunday is set to follow a large event in San Francisco on Saturday organized by Joey Gibson, who told Berkeleyside his focus is to protest the intolerance and censorship he thinks runs rampant in the city. Like Cummings, he said people “who are outwardly white supremacists or Nazis” are not wanted. Numerous counter-demonstrations, including “Resist SF” and the “March Against Hate to Crissy Field,” have been planned. The National Park Service has said it had to approve Gibson’s permit for the event so as not to violate his free speech rights, according to media reports.
Saturday in Berkeley, from 3-4:30 p.m., two faith groups have announced plans for an event at Civic Center Park to “Stand for Love and Justice while saying ‘No’ to the Nazis.” Organizers said they want “to create sacred space at the location where Neo-Nazis plan to rally the following day. Our goal is to provide a safe space for those who are concerned about the violence that may happen.” They wrote that “prayers, songs, music, poetry, and anything else of beauty reflecting our values of love, justice, environmental sustainability, nonviolence and, awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of the universe” are welcome.
On Sunday, a counter-protest to the Cummings demonstration, the “Bay Area Rally Against Hate,” is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. at Oxford and Addison streets on the Crescent Lawn. Organizers say they want to celebrate diversity through “a peaceful rally to speak to each other about the world we want.”
The event ends at 12:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the Cummings demonstration is set to begin at Civic Center Park, which is several blocks away from campus. Numerous other counter-protest events have also been announced in Berkeley on Sunday via the Occupy Oakland website.
Stay tuned to Berkeleyside for continuing coverage.
[Berkeleyside updated this story shortly after publication with some additional information about the one of the event applications.]