Berkeley denies event permit for alt-right rally, citing incomplete application

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Julian Kilchling/File

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With only a couple days left until the scheduled alt-right rally Sunday, Berkeley has denied an event permit application from rally organizer Amber Cummings, citing an insufficient permit application.

According to the permit documents, Cummings submitted an application for the “No to Marxism in America” rally in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Aug. 17, less than the 10 business days in advance required for all event permit applications. She estimated that there would be about 300 people in attendance, but failed to include several mandatory attachments such as a site plan, a waste management plan and a plan for security arrangements.

At a press conference hosted by city and state officials Wednesday, Cummings insisted that the rally was not a white nationalist event, and that she did not want racists to attend the rally. In the permit application, Cummings stated that the sole purpose of the rally was for free speech. 

Although Cummings signed the application’s hold harmless agreement — a clause meant to absolve the city of any damages costs that may result from the event — she then hand-wrote at the bottom of the page that she would not accept responsibility for any potential violence or damage from the event.

“My understanding is im (sic) not responsible for what people attending does. I do not endorse or agree with and destruction or violence period,” Cummings said in the application.

Additionally, on the affidavit of applicant, Cummings wrote that she did not have the means to pay for any costs related to the event, and that she was using her rights “granted under the Contitution (sic).” As for her security plans, Cummings wrote that 40 people would be volunteering to provide security, and that “we have cell phones.”

In anticipation of Cummings’s rally, City Council held an emergency meeting Aug. 18 to allow the city manager to create new temporary rules for unpermitted street events. Previously, the city manager could only issue rules for events held within Civic Center Park, but under the new ordinance these rules can now apply to street events.

On Wednesday, the city manager’s office sent a letter to Cummings explaining why her permit application was being denied. According to the letter, Cummings’s application was incomplete, lacking several crucial attachments including her photo identification and first aid emergency plans.

The city manager added in the letter that her handwritten note, which stated that she would not take responsibility for violence on the hold harmless agreement, rendered the entire agreement invalid. 

“The City is committed to upholding First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly while taking measures to ensure that any rallies or demonstration remain peaceful,” the city manager said in the letter.

Ashley Wong is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @wongalum.