Police Chief Galen Carroll does not expect trouble when conservative commentator Ann Coulter speaks Friday evening at Modesto Centre Plaza at the Stanislaus County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
But he is planning for the worst.
“There is a potential (for demonstrations and protests that could turn violent),” he said. “But it’s hard to know what to expect. ... Our biggest concern is people from outside of the area coming here. We are looking for the best but preparing for the worst, because that’s what you have to do.”
He said Modesto police are working with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department and Stockton Police Department to provide security outside of the event in case any protests turn violent. Event organizers have hired Rank Investigations and Protection to provide security inside Centre Plaza.
Carroll stressed that police respect demonstrators’ right to protest peacefully.
Coulter’s Modesto speech comes after the University of California at Berkeley late last week canceled her campus speech scheduled for this Thursday because of security concerns and offered to reschedule it. The Berkeley College Republicans and the conservative Young America’s Foundation have sued the university, claiming it restricts conservative speech.
The Associated Press reports the university’s decision “comes after a series of violent clashes this year on campus and in downtown Berkeley between far-right and far-left protesters who come armed with pepper spray, Molotov cocktails, brass knuckles and soda cans filled with concrete.”
Carroll said police have spoken with local groups and most don’t plan on demonstrating outside Centre Plaza, and those that do plan to do so peacefully.
“We don’t have any interest in (protesting),” said Patty Hughes, founder and president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Stanislaus County. “We have more important things to do Saturday, and that’s what we are preparing for.”
Hughes said the club has been planning for months for its organizers and activists fair and training featuring Christine Pelosi, a Democratic Party strategist and daughter of House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Hughes expects 150 to 200 people at the event.
Others opposing Coulter are holding a love and unity dinner the same time as her speech at the McHenry Event Center. About 200 tickets have been sold, said Latino Community Roundtable President Rebecca Harrington, who is one of the organizers.
The decision to bring in Coulter has sparked outrage among some in the community because of what they say are her degrading comments against the poor, Jews, Catholics, immigrants, Muslims, liberals and others. Those comments including saying that Latino culture accepts child rape.
Jim DeMartini – a member of the county Board of Supervisors and Republican Central Committee chairman – said he is surprised by the reaction to Coulter. He said her last book, “In Trump We Trust,” takes on the Republican establishment and the Republican primary candidates Donald Trump defeated before being elected president.
DeMartini said Friday’s event, which is a fundraiser for the local Republican Party, has sold about 600 tickets. Tickets start at $125 each. He said the dinner typically sells 300 to 400 tickets. “I cannot recall another speaker that has drawn more people in the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. DeMartini said he expects the fundraiser will clear about $50,000.
He said Coulter’s $25,000 fee is being paid by donations.
He blamed The Modesto Bee for stirring up controversy. “I’m surprised by the reaction, opponents calling her racist, calling her names,” he said. “It’s left-wing, slanted fake news coverage is how I would put it. I think the biggest problem the media has with her is she supports Trump. ... I don’t think any good Republican should subscribe to The Bee anymore.”
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316