Opposing Groups Clash at Chicano Park During ‘Patriot Picnic'

Chicano Park dates back to the 1970s and has long been a symbol of community and activism

Tensions at Barrio Logan's historic Chicano Park peaked Sunday between hundreds of park supporters and a small right-wing group at the park for a so-called "patriot picnic." 

The picnic was described as an educational outing for half a dozen people. They gathered to eat lunch and tour the murals at the historic park below the San Diego-Coronado bridge, according to the group's organizer, Roger Ogden.

Chicano Park in its current form dates back to the 1970s and has long been a symbol of community and activism. The park was designated a National Historic Landmark in January. 

Barrio Logan residents heard of the planned event at Chicano Park and spread the word. A counter-demonstration was planned for noon Sunday, an hour ahead of the picnic. 

Hundreds came out to Chicano Park to show their support for the murals and history in the park, speaking out about the cultural significance of the landmark. 

“The muralist community were the ones that first came here and painted these beautiful murals to celebrate life,” Enrique Morones, executive director of Border Angels, told NBC 7.

Morones said it was important to stand up in the face of hatred, especially given recent events in Charlottesville. 

Across the U.S., there has been recent debate about statues and other historical landmarks with Confederate symbols. Many, including a Confederate plaque in Downtown San Diego's Horton Plaza Park, have been recently removed. 

Many community members in Barrio Logan believe Sunday's "Patriot Picnic" was an excuse to do the same thing to Chicano Park's murals.

”And now we hear there's a group out here that wants to destroy the murals. That wants to promote hate," Morones added. "That wants to promote decisiveness. We will not tolerate that.”

San Diego police separated the two groups.

In a phone conversation with NBC7, the picnic’s organizer, Roger Ogden, said if the police had not escorted them out of the park, they would have been “lynched” by demonstrators. Ogden said his goal was to "show what kind of thugs and criminals they are."

He abruptly ended the conversation when NBC 7 asked if he had witnessed any criminal activity.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman tweeted that she was thankful to everyone for keeping everything peaceful at the park.

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