Ann Coulter began her visit to Modesto on Friday afternoon by stopping at a local Starbucks on her way to speak at our Republican Party’s Annual Lincoln Day Dinner. She surprised some fans there who were thrilled to meet her and, given the venue, undoubtedly some folks who weren’t.
Her coffee shop stop was pleasant and uneventful; she got her latte, a few fans got autographs while others sat and quietly carried on.
It set the tone for the rest of her time in our city as Modesto went on to prove to the country that we are the grown-ups in the room when it comes to civil discourse.
During a week that saw a premier university buckle under the hardly unreasonable constraints of the First Amendment and a neighborhood parade in Portland canceled due to threats of physical violence against minority politicians, Modesto stood strong. It was joked that Coulter must have thrown the mantle of free speech into the trunk of her car and carried it from Berkeley to Modesto.
It’s ours now.
Modestans are a diverse group politically and opinions on both sides of the spectrum were well aired during the weeks leading up to the event.
In The Bee, on local talk radio and in social media our citizens held a robust and generally civil exchange. None of it (provided you steered clear of some of the seamier back alleys of the internet) called for violence or anarchy.
On the day of the event, those who didn’t share Coulter’s political views expressed themselves in a variety of ways, from staying home to holding alternative gatherings to peaceful (though at times loud) protests outside the venue. An event that would have triggered outright mayhem in more “progressive” cities went off, in Modesto, without a hitch.
No one was arrested and downtown visitors remained safe and unimpeded in their travels and activities.
On behalf of local Republicans, I would like to thank all the citizens of Modesto for allowing us to hold our event in peace. That our city did so is a credit to our local educators, past and present, who have clearly instilled strong civic values in their pupils. Thanks also to the many who supported, volunteered and attended the event and to Coulter for her professionalism, punctuality and kind attention to our guests.
Endless thanks to the Modesto police department, led by Chief Galen Carroll, who took a strong, proactive approach in preparing for this event and who treated all who showed up to protest with dignity and respect – an attitude that was clearly reciprocated.
Thanks also to the other law enforcement agencies who assisted ours, including the Stanislaus County Sherriff’s Department and the Stockton Police Department. We are thankful violence didn’t occur but confident that, if it had, our men and women in uniform were well prepared to deal with it directly in a firm and fair manner.
Rank Investigations and Protection did an excellent job in organizing security inside the event while the staff and management of the Modesto Centre Plaza and Doubletree Hotel made sure the event was perfect from start to finish.
With this most recent event, Modesto proudly continues its tradition of hosting politicians and political pundits of all stripes with a warm welcome and the freedom to express themselves in an atmosphere of peace and safety for all.
Janice Keating is executive director of the Republican Party of Stanislaus County. Email: execdirector @stanislausgop.org