MODESTO — Tensions continue to swirl in Modesto after the city denied an application for a “straight pride” rally.
Organizers hoped to use Graceada Park — a central location in Modesto with an amphitheater — for the event but city leaders rejected the proposal.
“I believe the city council called into question our motives and tried to turn it into something it’s not,” rally organizer Mylinda Mason said.
“Straight Pride” organizers like Mason said the decision to decline their permit is disappointing and violates the group’s freedom of speech.
“The fact that they want to shut down anyone’s First Amendment rights should be very frightening to everyone in the community,” Mason said.
But, Modesto city leaders see it differently.
“This is not about the First Amendment. This is about safety and security,” Modesto city spokesperson Thomas Reeves explained.
Reeves said after further review of the group’s application, the city found the organizers’ liability insurance had not been valid.
City leaders said they’re also concerned the rally could draw a large crowd of supporters and counter-protesters, leaving a potential for violence in a residential neighborhood.
“We’re not going to stand naively by and think this would go off without a hitch,” Reeves said. “We want to make sure that our residents primarily are safe, that the applicant and his participants are safe, but also that those who choose to come to town are safe.”
The city said the group can still hold an event at an alternative location — like in the plaza in front of the city’s downtown convention center — as long as they submit a new application by the Tuesday deadline.
Don Grundmann, founder of the National Straight Pride Coalition, told FOX40 by phone that his group still plans to hold an event on Aug. 24 in Modesto.
“We will absolutely have a event,” Grundmann said. “We are still discussing the details and location but are not ruling out Graceada Park.”
He said he is very disappointed by the city council’s decision to deny their permit but said “it will not deter us.”
“We are preparing for anything if this event were to continue,” Reeves said.