It all started as a joke, a borderline “absurd” idea from a San Francisco artist who goes by the name Tuffy Tuffington. Yes, really.
As he was walking his dogs in Golden Gate Park last week, he stewed over white nationalist movements and the recent violence in Charlottesville. As he did, a right-wing group was in the midst of planning an upcoming “free speech” rally in San Francisco, and Tuffington wanted to find a way to peacefully push back.
“My dogs were doing their business,” Tuffington, 45, said, “and I was struck with the image of a bunch of alt-right folks stomping around in a field of poop.”
So he decided to make a Facebook event with a group of about 15 friends, encouraging them to “leave a gift for our Alt-Right friends” in Crissy Field, a public park near the Golden Gate Bridge where the rally is planned for Saturday.
“Take your dog to Crissy Field and let them do their business and be sure not to clean it up!” he wrote in the event description. It encourages dog owners to stop by the park Friday night or Saturday morning before the rally, which is planned by the group Patriot Prayer. By Saturday night or Sunday morning, organizers plan to return to the park to clean up the poop.
In the week or so since Tuffington posted the dog-poop event, more than 980 people have said they will participate. More than 5,300 said they are interested. Some have even said they intend to collect their dogs’ contributions over the course of the week to dump at the park.
It’s too early to project the output.
But as protesters descend on the scenic park Saturday, they might need to watch their step.
“Watch out for landmines, friends!” Tuffington wrote on the Facebook event.
Tuffington expects the number of participants will be much smaller, and he admits he is not sure whether anyone is actually stockpiling their dogs’ waste for the event.
His efforts have also been met with some major criticism. Some locals feel the excrement initiative will “defile” a “beloved” park, where families enjoy beaches, trails and stunning views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.
Meanwhile, more than 400 people have said they will attend the “Freedom Rally” hosted by Patriot Prayer. It is one of several protests and counter-protests planned around San Francisco on Saturday.
The group, led by Oregon activist Joey Gibson, has previously organized provocative rallies in the Portland area that escalated to violence.
Gibson, who is Japanese American, has repeatedly asserted that his group is not white supremacist or neo-Nazi. In a Facebook event for Saturday’s rally, a statement reads:
“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.”
It adds that speakers of several races, ethnicities and backgrounds will take part in the rally, with speakers who are black, Hispanic, Asian and Muslim.
In a Facebook video, Gibson said the “attack” on this rally is “mind-boggling.”
“I’m trying to bring people together who believe in freedom,” he said, adding that he does not identify as either right- or left-wing.
Still, a slew of politicians and public officials in the Bay Area have denounced the upcoming rally and condemned the National Park Service for issuing the group a permit.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement describing the rally as “white supremacist” and saying she had “grave concerns about the public safety hazard” it could create.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (D) characterized the upcoming events as “hate-filled extremist rallies” and said the participants’ “only priority is to incite violence through divisive rhetoric.”
Across the Bay Area, residents have come up with their own ways to counter the right-wing protests taking place in this liberal enclave. Among the various marches and protests planned are a dance party, a drag queen performance, a clown-themed rally and a “sheetcaking” festival.
The latter is, of course, a term coined by Tina Fey in a viral skit on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.”
Local officials have urged opposing protesters to attend separate events, the Associated Press reported. Yet some counterprotesters are planning to show up at Crissy Field regardless.
No park rangers or maintenance workers have expressed concerns about the widely publicized excrement-dump at Crissy Field, Tuffington said.
But Gibson has fired back. He told NBC Bay Area, “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.’”
In Facebook videos he has said his group is aimed at fighting corruption and deception through “the power of love and prayer.” One of Gibson’s top goals is to “liberate the conservatives on the West Coast,” according to a profile of him in the Columbian.
But his group has come under fire for previous marches it has organized. In Portland, speakers included a man who gained notoriety in right-wing groups after a video showed him “clobbering an antifascist activist over the head with a wooden sign post in Berkeley,” the Oregonian reported. Gibson has invited the man to speak at his rally on Saturday.
One extremist, Jeremy Christian, attended an April march and was confronted after he gave a Nazi salute. He is now charged with killing two men and injuring another aboard a train; the victims had allegedly intervened when Christian hurled anti-Muslim slurs at two young women.
As for Saturday’s rally, Tuffington said, “I’m probably going to stay away.”
“I don’t really have much of a desire to deal with anything going on down there,” he said. But as night falls Saturday, he hopes to head back to the park for pooper scooper duty.
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