MODESTO (CBS13) — Tensions run high in Modesto after dozens of people packed the city council chambers last night to sound off on a Straight Pride rally planned for a downtown park later this month.
As soon as the council opened up the meeting for public comment, the audience booed event organizer Don Grundmann.
“I want to thank Mr. Mathew Mason for organizing a candlelight vigil against our event because it shows you exactly what we’re dealing with,” said Grundmann. “A one way street for tolerance in this nation.”
The booing prompted him to turn his back to the council and engage in a shouting match.
“We’re here to defend all races,” said Grundmann.
His words propelled people like Jessica Self to urge the city not to let the national Straight Pride coalition hold a rally at Graceada Park.
“I personally stand out against this hateful message,” said Self. “There are limitations to the first amendment and that was my biggest point.”
“While they have freedom of speech, that’s not speech without consequences and the consequences here are going to cost taxpayers here in Modesto tens of thousands of dollars to be able to secure the area,” said Self.
The straight pride rally is proposed for Aug. 24 in Graceada Park’s Mancini Bowl, but so far the city has not given organizers the green light.
“The application states that the organizer would like to have that event at Graceada Park, which is in a residential neighborhood,” said City spokesperson Thomas Reeves.
Reeves says the city is looking at issues like public safety, security, and parking, but is also looking at the use of the word “parade” in the event’s marketing materials.
“That’s an incredibly important distinction to make when applying and reserving a park,” said Reeves. “Are you reserving just a section of our park? Or are you telling us you’ll have a parade or a march because that really requires a separate process and permitting application?”
Reeves says the city is asking Grundmann to consider a venue change before issuing its final decision.
“Security is always going to be an issue that we pay close attention to and we’re going to look at insurance, we’re going to look at all of those things,” said Reeves.
Organizers say the event is designed to protect gender roles, Christianity and heterosexuality, but opponents say it promotes white supremacy, hate speech, and violence against the LGBTQ community. The city is hoping to have a decision by tomorrow but says it could be delayed while its legal team looks into several issues.