Modesto Centre Plaza is out for straight pride, but organizers say rally still on

Tensions run high at Modesto’s council meeting as Straight Pride organizers go on defense

Several dozen people gathered Wednesday evening in Modesto, California’s, downtown to send a message to the city: Do not let the National Straight Pride Coalition hold a rally in a city park.
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Several dozen people gathered Wednesday evening in Modesto, California’s, downtown to send a message to the city: Do not let the National Straight Pride Coalition hold a rally in a city park.

The straight pride rally will not take place at Modesto Centre Plaza on Aug. 24, one of the organizers said Friday after the group had difficulties getting liability insurance.

But Don Grundmann repeated a point he has made several times — a rally will take place that day and in Modesto. He said it will feature a parade and seven or eight speakers, including two who are nationally known.

Grundmann did not provide many details, or the names of the speakers, but said organizers are looking to get the word out about the location on the day of the rally through Facebook and the National Straight Pride Coalition website.

“We are holding our cards close to our vest,” he said in a Friday afternoon phone interview. “We are still going to have our event, have our speakers, nationally known speakers, and we are going to do our thing.”

Grundmann, 67, is a Bay Area chiropractor who has been fighting the mainstream and culture wars for decades, including opposing the Federal Reserve, the IRS, abortion rights and the LGBTQ+ community. He’s been a perennial candidate for office, from school board to the presidency.

He is working with longtime friend and Modesto resident Mylinda Mason on the straight pride rally.

The two tried to reserve Mancini Bowl, the amphitheater in Graceada Park, for the rally, but the city denied their request Aug. 9, citing concerns over safety, that the rally is not compatible with other events in the park, and because the organizers’ liability insurance had been voided.

Modesto then proposed that they try to reserve Modesto Centre Plaza, the city’s downtown convention center, for their rally. The city offered the paved area in front of the center called Park Plaza, which can hold a few hundred people.

Friday was the deadline for organizers to submit their reservation request, including proof of liability insurance, with the city. “We had insurance difficulties,” Grundmann said.

Indiana-based K&K Insurance Group issued the liability insurance for the Mancini Bowl rally and voided it after speaking with Modesto officials Aug. 8. But city spokesman Thomas Reeves said the city did not ask that the insurance be voided.

He said the city’s research showed that K&K typically does not insure events like the straight pride rally. Its website says the company is “a leading provider of coverage for the sports, leisure, recreation, entertainment and motorsports industries since 1952.”

Reeves said the city called K&K to verify the insurance coverage and to make sure it knew the nature of the event it was insuring. He said K&K also was learning more about the event through media coverage.

“We did not ask them to cancel the insurance,” he said.

Grundmann has expressed doubts about the city’s explanation and said Friday that the “well has been poisoned” against organizers and the rally because they have been unfairly called a hate group and engaging in hate speech.

A K&K official did not respond to two requests for comment this week.

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.

The proposed rally has drawn strong opposition locally, including dozens of people who packed last week’s City Council meeting and asked the city not to allow the rally. Opponents say the coalition and the rally promote white supremacy, hate speech and violence against the LGBTQ+ community, people of color and other minorities.

Grundmann and Mason have said that is not true and accuse opponents of intolerance by trying to deny them their free speech rights.

Grundmann said Friday that it’s not hate speech if it’s true. When asked whether calling homosexuals sodomites or equating the LGBTQ+ community with child molestation is hate speech, he said: “That’s accurate speech, not hate speech.”

Grundmann has said he expected at least 500 people to attend a rally in Mancini Bowl. But he acknowledged the turnout will “probably not be as much as we’d like” because of having to find another venue.

Reeves, the city spokesman, said Grundmann, Mason and their supporters have the right to hold an informal gathering on public property Aug. 24, such as a city park, as long as the gathering does not take place in a venue that requires a reservation, such as Mancini Bowl, or use equipment that requires a city permit, such as a sound system.

He said law enforcement and the city continue to plan under the assumption there will be some type of event Aug. 24.

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Kevin Valine covers local government, homelessness and general assignment for The Modesto Bee. He is a graduate of San Jose State University and grew up in San Jose.