After third venue cancels, Gaetz, Greene take ‘protest against communism’ to Riverside

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), left, and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), speak at a May 7 rally in The Villages, Fla.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
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After three Southern California venues canceled Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene’s America First rally amid significant public outcry, the lawmakers hosted a protest in Riverside on Saturday evening instead.

In a video posted to Twitter on Saturday afternoon, Gaetz called on all California “patriots” to join him and Greene outside Riverside City Hall for a “peaceful protest against communism.” A group of loyalists joined them there.

“These folks they tried to cancel our venues but they can never cancel our patriotism or our American spirit,” Gaetz said in a video filmed outside Riverside City Hall. “They’ll hear us all throughout Southern California.”

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The city of Riverside said officials are “aware of the announced event and taking steps to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”

The abrupt change occurred hours after the Anaheim Event Center backed out of allowing the lawmakers to use the venue, a decision made after city officials shared concerns about other events limiting police resources for the rally.

“It was the lack of advance notice for an event that would attract the attention this one would that raised issues for our city,” said Mike Lyster, Anaheim city spokesman.

The last-minute cancellation was the latest in a series of hiccups for the controversial GOP lawmakers in their attempts to get a fundraising event off the ground in Southern California. Gaetz and Greene have been cohosting America First rallies across the country since early May.

Tickets to Saturday’s event were free for general admission. However, those who registered were given the option to upgrade to VIP status for $250 per person, funds that were expected to go to the Put America First Joint Fundraising Committee to support Greene‘s and Gaetz’s reelection campaigns.

Greene, a Georgia congresswoman, and Gaetz, who represents west Florida, were among former President Trump’s staunchest allies. The lawmakers’ remarks over COVID-19 safety measures and the false theory that the 2020 election was stolen have raised eyebrows among Democrats and Republicans alike.

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Gaetz is also under investigation for allegations of sex trafficking and having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. He has denied any criminal wrongdoing.

Information began circulating last week about an America First rally at Pacific Hills Banquet & Event Center in Laguna Hills planned for Saturday. The venue’s general manager told the Orange County Register it opted to cancel it after learning Gaetz and Greene would be speaking.

By Thursday, the rally had been moved to the Riverside Convention Center. Many Riverside residents condemned the event and several organizations planned to protest, prompting concern from city officials. By late Friday, that venue was out as well.

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“Riverside is a diverse and inclusive community, so it is heartening to hear that this event will not move forward,” Riverside Mayor Pro Tem Gaby Plascencia said in a statement. “I am disappointed we even got to this point, because these speakers are the antithesis of everything Riverside stands for.”

Hours later, organizers announced the event would be back in Orange County at the Anaheim Event Center. Dozens of residents contacted the city to decry the event. A few sent messages of support, Lyster said.

“As a city we respect free speech but also have a duty to call out speech that does not reflect our city and its values,” he said.

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Greene blamed the inability to maintain a venue on Democrats, which she called “the party of hate,” in a post on Twitter early Saturday.

“They organized to attack, threaten, & harass every venue we booked in CA to hold an America First rally, which celebrates our great country & freedoms,” she wrote. “They think their vicious hate will stop me, but I never give up.”

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