On January 17th, San Diego city attorney Mara Elliott weighed in on an upcoming event at Chicano Park called “Patriot Picnic 2.0.” She issued a statement implying the groups planning it are hate groups, a charge the accused deny.
"Patriot Picnic at Chicano Park - Start to Finish by Kris"
Patriot Picnic 2.0 will be the second attempt by these groups to hold an event at the park. On September 3 of last year, “Patriot Fire,” a group that criticizes Chicano Park, attempted to have a picnic. As they ate pizza slices and drank soda, they watched a crowd of park supporters gather across the street that eventually drove the picnickers away under police escort.
The “Bordertown Patriots” are planning round two as a public event on Saturday, February 3. They scheduled speakers and vow to raise the American flag on the park’s main flagpole (which currently flies a flag of Aztlan).
They issued a press release in which they say it is their love for their country that brings them to Chicano Park, that they are comprised of all races and religions, and that they want Chicano Park to incorporate both American and Chicano culture.
Attorney Ed Rose, who is representing the patriot picnickers, sent the city attorney a letter on January 15. Referring to the September 3rd incident, he stated, “The City of San Diego apparently is implementing policies that discriminate against law-abiding citizens who have the lawful right to use the Park.... My clients demand a full explanation as to why this happened and what actions will be taken against the organizers [of the counter-event] that drove my clients from the Park.”
Rose addressed the upcoming February 3rd event and urged Elliott to ensure that his clients are able to exercise their right to visit the park in safety.
In response to Rose’s letter, Elliott gave a response to 10News. She stated, “Chicano Park is a peaceful, family-oriented community park that is beloved by all San Diegans. It reflects our City’s commitment to cultural diversity and inclusion. As such, it has become a target for various hate groups. We hope that Mr. Rose’s clients are respectful of the people who frequent this park, as well as the laws that keep our residents safe.”
Rose sent Elliott a second letter, labeling her response “a political comment.” He denied that his clients are a hate group and suggested that Elliott’s response encourages “radical groups” to continue violating his clients’ rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. Rose urged Elliot to uphold the law and protect his clients’ rights; he suggested she should close Chicano Park if she is unable to do so or to resign if she is unwilling to do so.
In an interview over the phone, Rose explained that Elliott did not address the issues he raised in his letter. He said that instead of showing concern for his clients’ expulsion from the park she accused them of being hate groups.
“Where is the hate? They didn’t do anything,” Rose said. “She wants my clients to respect the laws that keep people safe, but what about the laws that are supposed to keep my clients safe? Notice she did not tell both sides to follow the law.” He said Elliott is demonstrating political bias and is taking sides rather than protecting the rights of everyone.
As with the first event, supporters of Chicano Park are not ignoring the second. Four different counter-events were created on Facebook. Groups such as the Brown Berets, Union del Barrio, and others have made public calls for people to come to the park to oppose Patriot Picnic 2.0.
The Chicano Park Steering Committee issued a public letter thanking everyone who plans to support the park and asking people to respect the park’s murals and sculptures. “Do not come to the park with negative intentions or seeking to provoke any problems,” it read.
Jorge Alexis Del Castillo created "Chicano Park Auto Defensa" and stated, “Let's remind them what happens to Nazis and Wyte Supremacists when they walk into our backyard waving their disgusting flags.”
The Brown Berets created “No Nazis Feb. 3,” called the patriot picnickers “Nazis,” and said they are not welcome in Chicano Park.
People are even coming in from out of town to support the park. The La Raza Unida party created "SFV/LA Caravan to Chicano Park Defense" which states, “Enough is enough! YA BASTA!!”
Crystal Rodriguez, who lives next to Chicano Park, started a fourth facebook event called “Carne Asada Raza Unida.” It had a bigger following than the other events, but she deactivated it when the Chicano Park Steering Committee asked her to. Her strategy was different than the other events in that she encouraged people to let the patriot picnic happen and to defeat it by having a bigger, better event and to fill the park with people grilling carne asada. She encouraged abuelitas to offer carne asada to the patriot picnickers.
Roger Ogden of Patriot Fire responded to Rodriguez in Spanish, saying he would love to try their carne asada. Rodriguez also encouraged people to bring American flags, suggesting it’s a silly idea to think the American flag would not be allowed in Chicano Park. “This is San Diego,” she stated.
Neither the San Diego City Attorney nor the Chicano Park Steering Committee responded to requests for comment.