MODESTO, Calif. — The Modesto City Council meeting heated up, Wednesday evening, as people voiced strong opinions on both sides of the "Straight Pride" event planned for the city later this month.
Don Grundmann is founder and director of the National Straight Pride Coalition, which is asking the city to hold its Straight Pride event in Modesto’s Graceada Park.
"We're a peaceful group who wanted to have a peaceful meeting, celebration of life,” Grundmann told council members Wednesday evening.
He said people are attacking him and his group as racists.
The city has not yet issued the National Straight Pride Coalition a permit for the event. Mayor Ted Brandvold said if the city grants the group permission, it won’t be an act that reflects the city’s views. He asked the city attorney to draft a resolution promoting tolerance, for council members to pass at a later meeting.
"The 'Straight Pride' event won't celebrate straight pride; it will only hurt our LGBTQ community,” one Modesto 12-year-old told council members.
Retired Modesto businessman and longtime resident, Bob Wiggs, said he is a part of the Straight Pride group.
“Everybody in our group is loving and abiding,” Wiggs said. “We're not here to tell the other side what they're doing is illegal or wrong, and we're not against them, but we want to have our say."
May Rico, executive director of Haven’s Women Center in Modesto, addressed the discrepancy some people are pointing out that protesting a protest in the name of tolerance appears to be intolerant.
"The organizers would have us believe their 'Straight Pride' event is no different from Gay Pride events, but they are trying to fool us. Gay Pride events are about celebrating survival, not superiority, and this 'Straight Pride' event is different,” Rico told the Modesto City Council. “If you look at their propaganda, they very clearly state their beliefs in the superiority of whiteness, the superiority of Christianity and the superiority of the nuclear family and heterosexuality."
Matthew Mason is a critic of the Straight Pride event. He’s also the son of one of the event’s co-organizers.
"If this event takes place, you must consider the potential for violence,” he told the council. “If the city is unwilling to deny their permit, it is my suggestion that the city deny them the venue of Graceada Park. This event does not need to be held in the heart of our city, right next to a baby shower, a birthday party and the middle of a residential neighborhood.”
He also asked that the city require the group to pay all security/policing costs for the event and obtain event liability insurance.
The most raucous moment of the evening came after a verbal slip by Grundmann, while addressing council members.
“We are a totally peaceful, racist group,” he gaffed, as the crowd broke out into applause and laughter behind him.
As the mayor banged his gavel and tried to reclaim order, Grundmann clarified, “we say we’re here to defend all races. All races and colors.”
City staff members could make a decision on the Straight Pride group's request as early as this week.
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