Protesters Outnumber Straight Pride Supporters at Central California Rally

Police keep watch over a straight pride rally in Modesto, California, on Aug. 24, 2019. (Paul Roupe / CNS)

MODESTO, Calif. (CN) – Supporters and opponents of the National Straight Pride Coalition clashed at the Planned Parenthood in Modesto, California, over the weekend in what was a highly charged but mostly peaceful protest.

Days after failing to secure liability insurance for an event they hoped to be held at Graceada Park near downtown Modesto, backers of the National Straight Pride Coalition showed up at Planned Parenthood to stop what their website says is “a coordinated attack within our society, culture and nation” that consists of, among other things, “the inherent malevolence of the Homosexual Movement toward our founding principles.”

Those founding principles, which include the “God-ordained natural nuclear family (one man, one woman, and children,” nationalism and Christianity are, according to detractors, hateful and outdated modes of thinking in a rapidly changing world.

But Ryan Messano, a 39-year-old from Vallejo wearing a MAGA hat, doesn’t believe that is the case. As he stood in the parking lot Saturday, trying to talk over the energetic crowd, he said there is a more important issue at hand.

“Twenty years ago, in America, homosexuality was illegal. We’ve legalized it, and now look what we’ve got – Sodom has come right here to Modesto,” he said

Part of the reason for the actions of the protesters, he said, is pornography.

“The vast majority of people who are here have indiscriminate sex outside of marriage, including porn and masturbation, which affects the brain. And they use psychotropic drugs. This is why you’ve got these crazed people sweating and shouting and yelling; they’re not really thinking.”

He also blamed the news media. “This is what you see when CNN, ABC is creating their mindset,” he said. “They have no idea what’s what. They’re literally mindless drones.”

Straight pride event organizer Don Grundmann, center, flanked by supporters and protesters in Modesto, California. (Paul Roupe / CNS)

Just feet away from Messano, Don Grundmann – the 67-year-old chiropractor and national director of the Straight Pride Coalition who called his group a “totally peaceful racist group” at a recent Modesto City Council meeting – deflected taunts and shouts while posing for photos with John Lee Peterson, a black man and one of the few people of color on the side of the coalition.

Peterson, who said he was born under the Jim Crow laws outside of Montgomery, Alabama, is a supporter because he sees the protests against straight pride as an attack on Christianity, an attack that he says can primarily be quelled by one man.

“We need the great white hope for four more years,” Peterson says of President Donald Trump. “We’ve got a lot of stuff going on between now and election time.”

He starts a “four more years!” chant that is interspersed with shouts of “Fuck Donald Trump!”

Modesto police, who came out on horses with plastic face shields, on bicycle and in unmarked cars, mostly stood guard, prevented people from going into the street, and occasionally stepped in the way of arguments that seemed volatile.

But of the well over 200 participants, most of whom came from a pre-protest gathering at nearby Enslen Park, nobody was injured or arrested.

The signs protesters carried varied from basic (Modesto Stands United Against Hate), to succinct (Spoiler Alert: Nazis Lose), to comical (a sketch of Jesus next to a tree with the caption: “Guys, I said I hated figs”).

Zo Hayes, a 21-year-old who describes herself as “queer and Jewish,” was proud of the turnout and saw it as an absolute necessity.

(Paul Roupe / CNS)

“It’s important to understand their hate,” she said, “so we can protect our brothers and sisters of color.”

As for the religious cloak the group has swaddled itself in to profess their beliefs, Hayes didn’t buy it.

“I don’t know where in the Bible it says not to love your neighbor,” she said.

Ess Goldsworthy, a resident of Sonora, drove four of her neighbors to Modesto to be a part of the protest in order to heal what she called “a long-festering wound.”

“It’s really important that people come out, show up, and participate in any way they can. Right now the pendulum is swinging, and we can see how far right it is going,” she says. “He’s (Grundmann) using semantics to stir up unrest. So it’s important for us to come up with some antics.”

Meanwhile, officials in Boston have approved a permit for a straight pride parade on Aug. 31 which will feature Milo Yiannopoulos, an openly gay prominent social media figure and darling of the far-right, as grand marshal.

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