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How 1,100 People Formed a Giant, Singing Heart on Ocean Beach

As Saturday’s Patriot Prayer event fell apart, counterprotesters took to Ocean Beach to stand for love.


When the rally-turned-“press-conference”-turned-indoor-private-event Patriot Prayer was first announced, Gabriella Musacchia felt deflated. “I was really disappointed in Patriot Prayer and felt like it was going to be an unsafe place,” says Musacchia, who is an administrator for Together We Will–San Francisco Bay Area, the local chapter of a national resistance group. 

With co-organizers Brad Newsham—who is a veteran aerial protest organizer—and Reneé McKenna, she hatched a plan: Get as many people as possible to Ocean Beach on Saturday and form a live, colorful beating heart. “We wanted to draw attetion away from Patriot Prayer and demonstrate true American patriotism: tolerance and inclusion and love,” Musacchia says.

Word got out via Eventbrite, Facebook, and fliers. The day before—permit in hand—organizers staked out the shape of the heart, connected with caution tape. “Then we just prayed it was going to be there the day after,” she says with a laugh. 

The view from the ground.

Photo: Patricia Jones

It was. Participants began turning up at 1 p.m., and Newsham began directing them into place at 2. In the end, the heart measured about 175 feet tall, composed of a brightly clothed, all-ages crowd full of children and dogs. “Older people could participate too, because it wasn’t physically demanding,” Musacchia says. They stayed in formation for about an hour and a half, at one point rippling a giant American flag, at another, doing the wave. 

The crowd broke out into songs, from “God Bless America” to “This Land Is Your Land” to “Imagine.” Musacchia guesses that Patriot Prayer’s constantly shifted plans only helped the heart grow. “We got a big boost in attendance right on the last day because people didn’t know what was going on.”



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