Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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Right-wing rally advocates to uncensor hate speech

A+San+Francisco+Park+ranger+stands+guard+for+a+Holocaust+survivor+portrait+exhibit+which+features+80+portraits+at+San+Francisco+City+Hall+Square.+%28Photo%3A+Michelle%C2%A0Snider%2FThe+Tower%29
A San Francisco Park ranger stands guard for a Holocaust survivor portrait exhibit which features 80 portraits at San Francisco City Hall Square. (Photo: Michelle Snider/The Tower)

Portraits of Holocaust survivors gazed towards the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall as an anti-feminism speaker chanted “hate speech is free speech,” and “free speech, not safe spaces,” at the Free Speech rally on May 3.

Energizing the crowd of about 100 with her testimonial as a legal immigrant, Bernadine Barber spoke about her parents, who moved to the U.S. from the Philippines for a better life and rights such as free speech.

Featured speaker Bernadine Barber taunts protesters across the street from the Free Speech Rally who chanted back, “Shut-the-fuck-up” (Photo: Michelle Snider/The Tower)
The occasion was intended to demand free speech access to social media platforms regardless if the speech is hateful. On the steps of City Hall, participants had access to a microphone, podium and police security. However, the focus of the rally diverged from this intent, as some speakers spent their time at the podium attacking rally protesters.

The rally was scheduled to start at noon, but many people, including two of the speakers, remained across the street antagonizing a group of protesters, causing the event to be delayed for almost an hour.

Will Johnson was one of the speakers. Last year, on March 18, Johnson brought his megaphone to East Oakland. Along with other President Trump supporters, he protested against the local business, Haste Muerte Café, for its recent refusal to serve a police officer, according to Brietbart.com.

Speaker Will Johnson engages with protesters, repeatedly telling them, “It’s okay to be white.” (Photo: Michelle Snider/The Tower)

“It’s okay to be white,” Johnson chanted on his megaphone before he took his place at the May 3 rally as a designated speaker.

This term is a slogan that appeared on the website 4chan’s messaging board. It serves as a means to cause journalists and “leftist” academics to over-react due to the historically racist origins of white supremacists, according to ABC News Australia. For those who do not know its origins, it is meant to seem harmless and prove there is an over-reaction to the slogan.

One of the headliners, Laura Loomer, did not show up to the rally. Loomer was one of six prominent social media figures, along with InfoWars, that Facebook banned for violating its policies against “dangerous individuals and organizations,” according to CBS News.

Larry Griffin, a Black San Francisco city worker, was observing Johnson surrounded by rally-goers on his way to the podium. A San Francisco native, Griffin chuckled, muttering “oh God,” as Johnson approached him.

Johnson said, “What, MAGA country. You like that?”

While live-streaming on YouTube, Johnson told Griffin that Trump was his president. Griffin laughed and said not for long, referencing the Mueller Report findings.

Talking over Griffin, Johnson said, “no collusion,” which Griffin said angered him. He told Johnson to leave him alone, but Johnson refused to leave as his supporters surrounded Griffin.

One man in a “Make America Great Again” t-shirt told Griffin that CNN should not be his education.

“Black people have been under the thumb of Democrats for a long time,” Johnson said. “You are an example of an old Black man that holds that demographic.”

Larry Griffin (right) asks Will Johnson (left) to leave him alone after their exchange started to get heated. (Photo: Michelle Snider/The Tower)

“How dare you question my Blackness,” Griffin said in response.

Griffin said the rally-goers were unpatriotic. “They claim to be patriots, ‘Make America Great Again’, what is it, 1950?”

Once Johnson made it to the podium to speak, he shouted to the rally attendees “Who’s your president?”

Johnson called the protesters across the street “Anqueefa,” a play on the acronym for the Anti-Fascist movement or “Antifa.” He denied the protesters’ claim that he was a Nazi sympathizer and countered that anti-fascists are Nazis.

“President Trump is doing the best he can for all Americans,” Johnson said. “Thank God we have President Trump in office. It’s just the delusion of the liberals. They have lost their minds.”

Johnson said white men are not the problem in the country — liberalism is the problem. He then told the audience he put “Turbo Force” in his orange juice, an Infowars supplement that claims to give energy.

“I am wired up! Infowars! You know, they banned Alex Jones on all his platforms because they didn’t like what he was saying,” Johnson said.

He ended his speech advising the audience to stand up to the “leftist tyrannical regime.”

Protesters shout anti-Trump, anti-fascist chants across the street behind police lines at a Free Speech rally on May 3 at San Francisco City Hall. (Photo: Michelle Snider/The Tower)

Meanwhile, city workers and city park rangers stood guard in front of a Holocaust installation called “Lest We Forget” by German photographer Luigi Toscano. According to The Jewish News of Northern California, the exhibit is an ongoing project in which Holocaust survivors from different cities are photographed and displayed. Of the 80 portraits displayed, 17 are San Francisco residents.

The exhibit will remain on display in front of SF City Hall until May 20.

About the Contributor
Michelle Snider
Michelle Snider, Editor in Chief
Michelle Snider is the Editor-in-Chief of The Citizen and has been an editor for three of the four semesters she has attended at Laney College. Best known for going viral filming “BBQ Becky” at Lake Merritt during her first semester, Michelle aspires to break into a new modern world of multimedia journalism. Dabbling in photojournalism, article writing, social media reporting, and film, Michelle has learned how to use different mediums to tell everyday stories. In 2017, Michelle was concerned about violent rallies breaking out in Berkeley, CA and went to document what she felt would one day be political history. When she learned what she was doing was considered journalism, she was inspired to go back to school to get a journalism degree. She later sold some of her Berkeley footage to a PBS Frontline documentary called “Documenting Hate.” At 42-years old, after raising 20-year-old twins, Michelle is ready to start a new life informing the local community and the world about the events around her. After all, journalism is the first draft of history.
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