SAN DIEGO – Hundreds of people showed up in Chicano Park Sunday for what was planned to be a peaceful gathering of solidarity to defend Chicano Park against what they say is expressions of hatred to immigrants and minorities in San Diego.
However, an hour into the rally emotions quickly escalated when an expected group of citizens showed up for what they call a “Patriot Picnic.”
"Patriot Fire" conservative blogger Roger Ogden, who told FOX 5 he was not affiliated with any extremist groups, and a few other people planned to have lunch at 1 p.m. while discussing and touring the murals at Chicano Park.
Ogden said what prompted the meeting was the removal of the confederate plaque of Jefferson Davis from Horton Plaza park last month. He said if the plaque had to go then the murals at Chicano Park should go, too.
“We weren’t going down to destroy the murals or anything. We were just going down to have a look in a public park," said Ogden. “They should move it somewhere else on private property or whatever but the city should not fund subversive revolutionary anti-American art on that public land.”
Many people, including faith-based groups, learned of Ogden's plan to be at the park and went to the park to "defend" it.
“This is holy grounds. We don’t want any violence. For many of us these murals have deep spiritual significance,” said Father John Author with Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic church.
“There was some social media expressions attempting to gather some extremist, white supremacists to come to the park to scope it out - almost like a reconnaissance mission for future action," said Mario Chacon with the Chicano Park Steering Committee.
Park committee organizers said Sunday's event was an example of hatred and it will not be tolerated.
“For him to say he was here to have pizza at Chicano Park is very hard to believe,” said Chacon.
San Diego police officers divided the two groups in order to keep violence from breaking out. San Diego police helped facilitate the safe removal of Ogden and his group once they decided to leave.
“I kind of expected something like this,” said Odgen as he was leaving the park.
San Diego Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman also showed up at the rally and was present when the rally escalated.
“We were very aware of what was going to happen here at the park so we had resources in place as you saw. A lot of staffing [was] in place in case things did turn,” said Zimmerman.
Chicano Park is park located beneath the San Diego-Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan, a predominantly Mexican American and Mexican-immigrant community.