A group has applied for a permit to hold a “straight pride” parade in Modesto next month.
The city is in the final stages of reviewing the application for the event, which is slated for Aug. 24 at Graceada Park, said Thomas Reeves, community and media relations officer for Modesto. A decision is expected next week.
City Hall has been flooded with calls and emails from residents, many of them upset that the event may be permitted to take place, he said.
“Permits to host any event are granted based on operational feasibility, not based on values and certainly not based on any endorsement of beliefs,” Reeves said. “So although the city does not share in the beliefs of some groups that choose to hold their events here, we may not be able to deny a permit based on an organization’s values.”
A similar rationale was given by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh when the city approved a public event application for a “straight pride” parade there last month. The two events do not appear to be affiliated.
Fliers advertising the Modesto parade began circulating about a week ago, both in downtown Modesto and via social media, drawing the attention of the Modesto Progressive Democrats’ Facebook page.
“We’re promoting many different things: heterosexuality, masculinity, femininity, babies, born and especially unborn, the nuclear family of men, women and children — everything that made our country great,” said organizer Don Grundmann, a San Leandro-based chiropractor and herbalist with at least five unsuccessful U.S. Senate runs under his belt.
Formerly a leading figure in the American Independent Party, Grundmann is chairman of the Constitution Party of California, which is not recognized as a ballot-qualified party by the state.
In addition to advocating for Christianity and a return to what he calls “old-fashioned American values,” his platform includes abolishing the IRS, the Federal Reserve System and the U.S. Department of Education; eliminating the federal income tax; and banning the vaccination of children.
Grundmann also describes himself as director of the National Straight Pride Coalition, which is backing the event. The group is currently active only in California, but he said he hopes to inspire chapters and similar events in every state.
“We’re looking to spread our message across the country, especially in time for the 2020 election cycle,” he said.
The city’s Reeves said that law enforcement officials have been involved in every step of the permit review process, and that Modesto will step up police presence for the parade if the application is approved.
Should that approval happen, Modesto residents plan to stage a simultaneous demonstration across the street in Enslen Park.
“People are shocked and blown away that this kind of event could happen in our community,” said Chris Ricci, president of Modesto Progressive Democrats.
Chris Holland, an organizer of the counter-protest, said it’s important for people to recognize the National Straight Pride Coalition as “a thinly veiled hate organization.”
“They are dressing up their homophobic agenda as a celebration, which mocks everything that pride is about,” he said.
U. S. Rep. Josh Harder, a Democrat who represents the Modesto area, said in a statement Wednesday that the planned parade “sends a terrible message to our LGBTQ kids, who are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
“Every American is entitled to free speech,” he said. “But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.”
Holland said he hopes the presence of counter-protesters will send a message to the organizers of the original event.
“I want them to know that we will not be silent and we will not be afraid,” he said. “And it’s not just for them to see us. We want all of the people who ... keep seeing the hate that this [presidential] administration has legitimized to know that’s not all there is out there — that we are here too.”