MODESTO -- Words and signs of unity and inclusion from nearly 200 counter-protesters shouted down the small group of about a dozen Straight Pride supporters in front of the Planned Parenthood in Modesto.
"Masculinity it’s okay to be a man. femininity, it’s okay to be a woman," Don Grundmann said.
Grundmann, the founder of the National Straight Pride Coalition, said he’s proud of his supporters for standing up for their right to free speech and his group’s fundamental principals.
"Masculinity, femininity, the natural family of man, woman children, babies, born and unborn western civilization, Caucasians and all people, all of those are basic foundations that are under attack," Grundmann explained.
Grundmann and his supporters have sparked backlash in recent weeks leading up to Saturday's rally.
Critics are calling the straight pride coalition a “racist hate group” with a mission to divide and incite violence.
"We are rejecting this presence of hate, that we are rejecting the values that this Straight Pride Coalition represents like white nationalism and homophobia," Max Reed said.
Reed, a member of the Modesto Non-Violent Collective, helped organize the counter-protest that began at Enslen Park before they left to confront Straight Pride supporters in front of Planned Parenthood.
"This community is standing together to reject this group and what they represent," Reed said.
While tensions were high between the two groups, there was a heavy police presence at both locations to ensure the events remained non-violent.
UPDATE The protest on McHenry Ave has dissipated and traffic has returned to normal. We would like to thank them for remaining peaceful, expressing themselves in a respectful manner while embracing our community’s diversity.
— Modesto Police Dept (@ModestoPolice) August 24, 2019
"When people want to come into your own backyard and spread a message that you don’t agree with then you have a right to stand up against that too," Wendy Byrd, President of the NAACP Modesto Stanislaus Branch, said.
What was originally advertised as a Straight Pride Parade turned into a pop-up rally along a busy road after the city denied the group a permit when they failed to get the required liability insurance.
"Our goal is, we’re going to have these events across the country, in all states and all counties," Grundmann said.
Counter-protesters say they hope their strong turnout sends a message to Grundmann and his Straight Pride supporters.
"This is not what Modesto is about," Reed said. "We’re about inclusion and diversity and unity."