MODESTO, Calif. — Organizers behind 2019's "Straight Pride event" in Modesto are planning a comeback in 2020.
The National Straight Pride Coalition announced the second annual Stanislaus County Straight Pride Event for the end of August, touting many of the same beliefs that stirred commotion among some Modesto residents in 2019.
The "Straight Pride Event" is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 29, in front of Modesto's Planned Parenthood. Don Grundmann, organizer for the event and founder of the National Straight Pride Coalition, said his organization is holding the event at Planned Parenthood to protest what they believe is a negative impact the organization has had on the Black community in regard to abortions.
The goal, he added, is essentially the same as last time.
"We have a celebration of life in all of its aspects: masculinity; femininity; the natural family of man, woman, and children; children born and unborn; Western civilization; Christianity - everything which builds the culture of life,” Grundmann said.
He said the event and message relates to "straight pride" in that the event is a celebration of life in all it's aspects.
MoPride Inc., a nonprofit supporting the Modesto LGBTQ community, planned a counter-protest almost immediately upon hearing about Grundmann's event. Zola Hayes, Pride director for the nonprofit and a main organizer for the counter-protest, said the organization opted out of officially participating in counter-protest measures in 2019, but this year, they intend to do things differently.
“We decided that we needed to stand up and fight back against this hate in our own community, because we can’t just ignore it," Hayes said. "We can’t just not give them a microphone. We have to stand up and push this hate out of our community.”
Hayes worries that the organization's silence would tell people who are not openly gay they aren't safe.
"They [The National Straight Pride Coalition] are absolutely representative of an emboldening of far right groups that use hateful rhetoric to galvanize their base,” Hayes said.
Grundmann contested allegations that his group was racist or tied to white supremacy. He said the group's message goes against white supremacy.
“We know that our opponents will attack us, and they have the same tired thing of racism. It’s very clear," Grundmann said. "We’re there to oppose Planned Parenthood killing 20 million Blacks."
During the 2019 "Straight Pride Event," emotions ran high, causing things to get somewhat heated. But, despite those moments, events stayed relatively peaceful.
“I thought it was a great event," Grundmann said. "Our opponents did everything they could under the sun to stop us."
He referenced the counter-protesters, a permit denial, and insurance issues that hindered the event last year. He said just being able to have the event made it a success. His organization decided to forgo the need for any permits or insurance this year.
"We learned to bypass all these obstacles, so we’re taking it out to the streets and to the people directly,” Grundmann said.
Hayes, who was part of the counter-protest in 2019, saw the event a bit differently. She said the counter-protesters stood their ground until the "Straight Pride Event" ended, and she's not entirely sure why the group decided to return for a second year.
“We were very much supported not only by our community, but by people that came from all over the state to come support us whereas they were about 20 people yelling obscenities,” Hayes said.
The MoPride counter-protest is still at its beginning stages, however, Hayes said they intend for it to be peaceful and supportive of the LGBTQ community.
Given the civil unrest with protests throughout the country, Stanislaus County's struggles with the coronavirus, and restrictions on gatherings, ABC10 asked both organizers why they would hold events like this during this time.
Hayes said she's gotten the "why" question from many people, both during last year's protest and in the lead up to this year's. Concerns include putting members at risk to the coronavirus and behavior they believe could be violent.
“The reason is, if we don’t stand up, then who is going to stand up for us?" Hayes said. "This is our community, and we need to stand up for ourselves because we cannot tolerate this kind of hatred and this kind of racist ideology poisoning the mind of our children.”
For his part, Grundmann said his event focused on a central issue in America right now, and he questioned the motives of the Black Lives Matter as an organization.
“It’s all the more reason we need to be out there and lift up the rock and shine a light on the bugs under the rock to bring them out from hiding to expose their real nature - who they really are,” Grundmann said.“We have a celebration of life again upcoming in Modesto. We’re hoping to spread this message across the country… There’s so many other things coming across the country, protests and the bug [coronavirus] and everything else. To us, they all tie together.”
More information on the Straight Pride Event and the National Straight Pride Coalition can be found on their website. More information on the counter-protest from MoPride can be found on their Facebook page.