MODESTO, Calif. — In response to the proposed "Straight Pride" event scheduled Saturday in Modesto, a number of events will be happening around town in counterprotest.
"I hope that this Saturday actually sparks hope in the community," Chris Holland, an organizer of the event's counterprotest said.
As Straight Pride organizers say their event will happen no matter what, even after the city denied their permit, a counterprotest has since been set up to happen at the same time.
"Once we actually let an event like this take place, it gives it a foothold in the community and emboldens others that may be even further into hate speech to come out of the woodwork and we've seen incidences of violence rise after things like this," Holland said.
Organizers of the group called PRISM, which stands for Pride, Solidarity and Multiculturalism, say they'll be ready to mobilize and set up their protest with around 300 people wherever it happens, meeting at 11 a.m. in Enslen Park Saturday morning to start.
"We want the community to know that we stand in solidarity with all of the marginalized people of our community. We don't want them to live in fear, we want them to know that they've got friends, protectors and the city stands with them," he said.
Straight Pride organizers claim their event is meant to celebrate "heterosexuality, masculinity - femininity, babies - both born and unborn, western civilization, our wonderful country and Christianity." They say they plan to announce the location Saturday their website and Facebook page.
"We always plan for the worst and hope for the best. Our ultimate goal is just to keep the peace and keep our community safe, and so we plan for every possible contingency that we can think of," said Modesto Police Sgt. Kalani Souza.
Modesto Police said they're bringing in extra officers for the day. They'll deploy their mobile field force team to help with crowd control. They also plan to have officers from outside agencies on standby in case things get out of control.
Religious leaders are also stepping in to hold a vigil the night before at St. Paul's Episcopal Church at 6:30 p.m.
"We're going to do a pledge of unity, a promise to one another, that we will do all that we can to see that everybody is welcome here in the Central Valley," Father Nick Lorenzetti of St. Paul's Episcopal Church said.
Lorenzetti said they plan to celebrate the community's rich diversity with city leaders, religious leaders and people of all backgrounds.
"Every person matters, every life matters, that there's a richness in our diversity, that we should be celebrating the fact that we are a variety of races, of creeds, of lifestyles," he said.
This also comes just a week after the Modesto City Council passed a new ordinance banning certain things that could be considered as weapons at public demonstrations like masks, glass, and signposts.
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