RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CNS) — Hundreds of people attended — some to support, others to protest — a thrice-canceled rally against communism organized by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, outside Riverside City Hall Saturday.
The "America First" rally had previously been spurned by three separate venues before Gaetz announced Saturday afternoon that the event had found a new venue.
During speeches at the protest, Gaetz and Greene railed against the Democratic party, Black Lives Matter and the media while praising former President Donald Trump.
"The lying fake news media harassed him and smeared him to make America hate him," said Greene. "But do we hate him? No, we love him. We love President Trump."
Gaetz told the crowd, "Donald Trump won the last election and he's going to win the next one."
Riverside police said they were prepared for the event and urged demonstrators to remain peaceful.
"We'll have enough personnel there that we feel we need to help keep this event safe," said Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for the Riverside Police Department. "We want everybody who may be going down there, whatever your viewpoint is, to safely and peacefully express your constitutional rights and do everything within the law. We don't want any trouble. We want it to remain as peaceful as would be possible. Our role is to maintain peace and safety down there and we'll do that."
No violence was reported as of 6 p.m., though videos posted to social media show protesters and counter-protesters engaging in screaming matches while standing on opposite sides of Ninth Street outside City Hall.
Earlier, Gaetz suggested that he might sue the city of Riverside and the operators of the Riverside Convention Center over their cancellation of the "America First" rally.
That rally was initially planned for the Pacific Hills Banquet & Event Center in Laguna Hills, but canceled there because "We just want to stay clear of that," General Manager Javad Mirtavoosi told the Orange County Register last week.
It was then shifted to the Riverside Convention Center, but officials with the Raincross Hospitality Corp., which manages and operates the city-owned center under contract with the city, told city officials Friday night the event would not take place.
"I recognize this was a divisive issue in our community, and I am glad it has been resolved," Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said. "I commend Raincross Hospitality Corp. for this decision."
Mayor Pro Tem Gaby Plascencia also weighed in, saying, "Riverside is a diverse and inclusive community, so it is heartening to hear that this event will not move forward. I am disappointed we even got to this point because these speakers are the antithesis of everything Riverside stands for."
Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for alleged obstruction of a child-sex-trafficking case in which he is implicated, tweeted Saturday morning that "These quotes are going to make great exhibits in the lawsuit @RepMTG and I will be filing."
The rally was moved to its third potential location — the Anaheim Event Center — before city officials there also announced that the event was canceled over public safety concerns.
"A planned America First rally at a private venue in our city is canceled. The city of Anaheim shared public safety concerns with the operator, and those concerns are shared by the operator," Anaheim officials said in a statement Saturday morning.
Gaetz and Greene are both strong supporters of Trump and have been lightning rods for criticism from the political left.
"Radical communists have spent the last week trying to cancel our America First Rally w/@mattgaetz. Violent threats from BLM/Antifa were used again today to bully another venue. We won't back down. Our rally is happening tomorrow night in California," Greene tweeted Friday night.
The tweet was accompanied by a short video in which Greene said, "The radical left and the woke mob is trying to cancel our rally but we're not gonna let it happen, so here's the message for you, communists Democrats: We are going stand up and we will have our America First rally tomorrow. You can't cancel us, you can't stop us. We're going to save America."
Greene, who is a mother, also used the rally against communism to tell other parents to not allow schools to make their children wear masks, a preventative health measure against COVID-19.