The organizers of Saturday’s Straight Pride rally in Modesto, California imagined an event that would draw hundreds of people — and it did, but not in the way they hoped.
For the event,organizers originally intended to use the Durrer Barn due to being banned from using a public space. When the owner of the venue found out their intentions, he ordered them to leave, effectively banning them from that space as well. As a last minute resort, the group staged the event in front of Planned Parenthood on McHenry Avenue.
“This whole thing was presented to me as a little meeting, and I had no idea it was going to end up like this,” said Leo Durrer, the owner of Durrer Barn. “I trusted these people wholeheartedly because I did not think they had a mean bone in them. Maybe it’s a really good lesson for me to check things out better in the future.”
Police reported that 200 people were present outside the Planned Parenthood. And while this could be seen as a win, only about 20 of those were supporters of Straight Pride. The rest: the LGBT+ community and its allies who had come to protest.
In contrast, an estimated 250 people attended a vigil on Friday at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to celebrate Modesto’s diversity ahead of the Straight Pride event. That event was organized in part by Matthew Mason, the gay son of Modesto Straight Pride co-organizer Mylinda Mason. Mason had previously come out against the Pride.
“They believe this should be a culture war,” he told the Modesto Bee. “It’s rhetoric I’ve heard my whole life.”Another roughly 250 people gathered at Enslen Park on Saturday for speeches and a protest of the Pride.
Don Grundmann, one of the organizers of the event, said that the pushback to the event doesn’t “change the truth of our message,”
“They talk about diversity and attack us,” Grundmann said. “So-called diversity and tolerance is a one-way street.”
Grundmann previously compared homosexuality and the acceptance of trans people to “child molestation.”
During the rally in Enslen Park, Modesto councilman Mani Grewel said: “For every step someone takes to come and divide our community, spread hatred, spread bigotry this many people are standing on guard to make sure it doesn’t happen with thousands more.”
According to the Modesto Bee, the police reported that despite the large amount of protesters who showed up, the whole event was, for the most part, peaceful.
“The only incident reported as of this time involved an assault on McHenry Ave involving one attendee trying to forcibly remove an object from another attendee’s hand,” they said.
“Even though this incident is considered an assault and documented as such, neither party wished to press charges and went about their day going separate ways.”