Organizers of Modesto’s straight pride parade may not have permits for a grand celebration but they’re still planning to make a stand — and several San Franciscans will be there for the counter-protest come Saturday.
The National Straight Pride Coalition drew nationwide attention for its attempt to hold a parade in Modesto’s Graceada Park, less than 100 miles from San Francisco. The group isn’t just for heterosexuality — it’s all about upholding traditional gender roles, the nuclear family, Christianity-formed Western Civilization, whiteness defined as Caucasian, and even nationalism.
Organizer Don Grundmann even invited the Proud Boys and said they were a “peaceful, racist group” before being denied permits at a heavily-attended city council meeting earlier this month. All this was enough to ring the alarm bells of Joe Adkins, who has interned for Supervisor Rafael Mandelman the past year, and is from Modesto.
“I’ve been living in San Francisco for a decade now and I’ve been able to feel comfortable with being gay,” Adkins says. “It’s made me forget a little bit what it’s really like in Modesto. For me, this is a reminder that there’s quite a lot of intolerance and homophobia in the Central Valley.”
Adkins experienced it firsthand. He said he received death threats as early as sixth grade and was beaten up often enough that he dropped out of high school.
Efforts to have a straight pride parade had Adkins involved in his hometown once again. He spent the last few weeks reaching out to groups in San Francisco so they could spread the word to their networks and even issue a statement of support for the counter-demonstration.
There’s no formal contingent but the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club formally voted in support. Adkins even says politicians like Mandelman, state Senator Scott Wiener, and Rep. Josh Harder are interested in attending.
But in dealing with a group that espouses white, Christian nationalism, safety is paramount. Adkins and Modesto organizer, Chris Holland, stress to folks interested in attending not to engage with them in a way that could turn into violence.
Ultimately, they want more people at the counter-protest to show that the coalition’s ideas aren’t tolerated and spread further. Boston approved a similar parade last month.
“The straight parade is an insult and a mockery to Pride and its history,” says Holland. “[Pride] is a celebration of the sacrifices and the pains that the LGBTQ community has gone through to try to get accepted. The war for equal rights is not over with.”
Counter-protesters will meet at Modesto’s Enslen Park on Saturday at 11 a.m.