The gay son of one of the organizers of a straight pride rally planned for Graceada Park says he will ask Modesto officials at Wednesday’s City Council meeting not to let them use the park.
“We don’t want hate in Modesto,” said Matthew Mason, 28, who is the adopted and estranged son of Modesto resident Mylinda Mason, one of the organizers of the event. “I am making sure Modesto is not a place for hate speech.”
Mason said he also is working with others on organizing a candlelight vigil before the council meeting to protest the straight pride event, planned for Aug. 24 in Mancini Bowl, the park’s amphitheater.
Straight pride organizers have filed an application with the city to reserve Mancini Bowl for their event. City spokesman Thomas Reeves said Friday the city still was waiting for organizers to confirm whether a parade will be part of the event. Reeves said the city asked for confirmation a week ago. He also said city staff, and not the council, grants park reservations after reviewing them.
Mason still will address the City Council. He said he supports the right to free speech and peaceful assembly but believes the city should not allow this event because it has the potential for violence. One of the organizers has said the local chapter of the Proud Boys accepted his invitation to attend.
The New York Times has reported that Proud Boy members attended the 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in which one of the rally participants drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one of them. But a member of the Proud Boys Central Valley Modesto chapter said Friday that Proud Boys were not at Charlottesville.
And the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Proud Boys as a hate group, which the group says is not true. Proud Boys describe themselves as “Western Chauvinists.”
The Proud Boys sent an email to The Bee stating it will not attend and has no involvement with the event. Still, Matthew Mason said even inviting the Proud Boys shows the spirit of the event and its potential for violence. “They have the right to express their speech but not to incite violence,” he said.
The straight pride organizers have said they are planning a peaceful event.
The “intolerance does not come from our side,” Mylinda Mason said. “We are more than happy to see they are going to have a candlelight vigil. We are not happy they are going to try to shut down our side and deny us peaceable assembly. It’s obvious we have two opposing views. It’s the other side that wants the opposing view shut down. It’s not our side.”
She is working with Bay Area chiropractor and longtime friend Don Grundmann on the event.
Grundmann, 67, founded the National Straight Pride Coalition and its California chapter about four months ago, the latest in a series of groups he has formed over the years, including Citizens Against Perversion. But his protests have drawn few followers. He’s also been a perennial and unsuccessful candidate for elected office for nearly 30 years, from school board to the presidency.
According to its website, the coalition is protecting traditional gender roles, Christianity, heterosexuality, Western Civilization, and the contributions of whites to Western Civilization from the malevolence of the homosexual movement.
Grundmann said in a July 27 interview that he hopes the coalition grows nationwide and influences the 2020 election. “We’re going to change the cultural tide and make it, such things as gender fluidity and transgender, we’re going to associate them with what they are: sick and evil ideas, and also infanticide and abortion. We going to go the whole gamut. It’s OK to be a man. It’s OK to be a woman.”
Matthew Mason said: “They believe Western Civilization should be straight, white and Christian with a very specific gender binary. They believe this should be a culture war. It’s rhetoric I’ve heard my whole life.
“You can have straight pride but you don’t have to say that means (LGBTQ+ community members) are deviants. You can be Christians, but you don’t have to dictate that people in the LGBTQ+ community are not Christians. You can celebrate Western Civilization without saying, ‘West is best.’”
Mason is working with Modesto resident Chris Holland and others on organizing the vigil before Wednesday’s City Council meeting. The vigil starts at 5 p.m. in the plaza at Tenth Street Place, the city-county government center. The council meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.
And one of the council members Mason will address Wednesday is Kristi Ah You, who gave him up for adoption after giving birth to him as a teenager. “Matthew is his own person, and I’m proud of him,” Ah You said. “It’s his right to address the City Council, and I respect him for that.”
Mason said he wants to keep the focus on his opposition to his adoptive mother. “It just so happens that one of the people I need to address is my biological mother,” he said.
Grundman said in the July 27 interview that the Central Valley-Modesto chapter of the Proud Boys had accepted his invitation to attend the event and that he recently had joined the chapter and had participated in a Proud Boys rally in Sacramento.
The local Proud Boys member, who declined to give his name, confirmed Grundmann spoke at the rally but not as a Proud Boy member.
“They are all my friends,” Grundmann said July 27. “They are great people. They are a fantastic Christian group ... They are the perfect example of one of things that we are supporting, masculinity, of being men. So they are going to be there, and I’m happy to have them there.”
The Bee emailed the group Tuesday seeking confirmation. The Proud Boys Central Valley chapter sent an email response Thursday, stating that it is not participating and that Grundmann is not part of Proud Boys and used its name without consent.
“Although Don Grundman(n) associates with Republicans, he in no way is affiliated with our organization,” according to the email. “We are heavily offended that the common practice of consenting before the use of one’s name was not carried out by Don.”
The email said that while Proud Boys are mostly Christian men, the organization is “multiracial and also (has) homosexual members.”
Grundman said Thursday that he learned after the July 27 interview that the Proud Boys would not attend the straight pride event, which he called a “corporate decision” by them. But he said he remains a Proud Boy.
Matthew Mason said he met Grundmann in his teens when he and his parents attended a church in Castro Valley. He said Grundmann and his family were among church members that took part in Bay Area protests against abortion rights and the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’m fully expecting they will have a small, pitiful turnout,” Matthew Mason said about the proposed straight pride event. “They are a fringe group,” though Grundmann has said he expects at least 500 people to attend.
Matthew Mason is a Turlock resident and attends California State University, Stanislaus. He said he was no longer welcome at home when he came out as gay at 19. He said he continued to maintain a relationship with his adoptive mother but the two have been estranged for the last few years.
Mylinda Mason said she adores and loves her son and the estrangement is his choice. “I would say it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “Any parent feels this way.”