As many of you have heard, there will be a Patriot Prayer rally at San Francisco’s Crissy Field on August 26th. The San Francisco event was confirmed after hate groups rained down mayhem and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, a week ago, and another hate rally in Boston brought out largely peaceful counter-protesters by the thousands on Sunday.
Like so many across the Bay Area, the Board and staff of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund are concerned that San Francisco will be hosting an event at odds with our city’s collective commitment to celebrate our differences and the ties that connect us. What also pains us is the choice of location.
Situated at the foot of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Crissy Field isn’t just a jewel in the Golden Gate National Parks system. It is also a reminder of what can happen when people come together to create a public space we all can share and enjoy.
Just 20 years ago, the land that is now Crissy Field was covered with piles of concrete and asphalt. But in the 1980s and 1990s, the Haas, Jr. Fund joined with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to help restore and reinvent this former military airfield.
Crissy Field is the park it is today because people throughout our community shared their dreams for this public space. Residents from all over the Bay Area volunteered their time and donated generously for construction and cleanup. When work teams unearthed an ancient shell midden, the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy consulted closely with the Ohlone people to help monitor the restoration.
On opening day for the park in 2001, 80,000 people showed up to celebrate this wonderful new public space. Today, it’s a destination and gathering place for more than 1 million people each year, including thousands of Bay Area families and children. A model for national parks across the country, Crissy Field Center has provided quality environmental programs for 15 years to thousands of youth from all backgrounds, including those who have had little access to our national parks.
We respect the right of all Americans to freely express their views, as long as they do so in ways that are nonviolent. Ensuring public safety, even as we defend the right to free speech, has to remain the National Park Service’s top concern. The rage and sadness so many of us feel about what’s happening in our country—and what may be coming to our community—can be raw and palpable. But we can’t let our emotions draw us into confrontations in which others are only too happy to engage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center advises that when it comes to rallies like this one, do not attend. Instead, attend a unity event. It’s heartening to see the wide range of alternative local gatherings that are blossoming online—and it’s one more testament to what’s inspiring about this Bay Area community we all call home.
If you decide to go to Crissy Field on Saturday, please make the wise choice to express your views in ways that are nonviolent and don’t put yourself or other people at risk. Let’s show the world that we can confront hate and bigotry in the same spirit that helped restore Crissy Field back to our joyfully diverse community —with love, unity, and respect.