When the anti-LGBTQ group National Straight Pride Coalition held a rally outside of a Modesto, California Planned Parenthood, the bigoted group got more than they bargained for. The event quickly headed south when counter-protesters showed up – outnumbering NSPC protestors by four to one — and leading to a handful of arrests.
For four years the anti-LGBTQ group has chosen Modesto’s family planning clinic as the location to hold their “Straight Pride” rally, billing itself as a “celebration of heterosexuality, masculinity, femininity, babies born and unborn, Western civilization,” “our wonderful country,” and Christianity according to The Modesto Bee.
Though the event was not scheduled to begin until noon, the violence erupted at around 10:30 AM as rainbow flag-waving counter-protesters and women’s rights advocates clashed with straight pride supporters and members of the far-right White nationalist group the Proud Boys.
“A scuffle ensued as a Proud Boy attempt to push past the police, said a man who gave his name only as Richard. He said he watched the violence as a straight pride supporter but did not identify as a Proud Boy himself,” The Modesto Bee reported.
Fireworks, pepper spray, water bottles, and a burning bush set ablaze by a smoke bomb led police to shut down the rally – calling it an “unlawful gathering.”
Local business owner Tony Manriquez blasted Latino music from the speakers of Modesto Window Tint, switching to the 1985 hit “We Are The World” when counter-protesters began chanting to drown out the sounds of an impromptu sermon by a man from San Jose, CA carrying a “Jesus saves from hell” sign.
Over two dozen law enforcement officers in tactical gear sprayed pepper spray bullets and used bean bag guns on the pro-equality group.
“‘They came at us with batons, they jabbed us, they hit the crap out of us,’ said one counterprotester who was hit with a pepper spray round. He declined to give his name. Volunteers had flushed his eyes with water, but he was still wheezing,” The Modesto Bee reported.
Two more attendees, Naomi Bingham Walker and Odette Zapata – both from Sacramento– went to the rally to combat what Bingham Walker (a member of the LGBTQ community) says is “the increase in white supremacy and hatred in our country.” Zapata was wearing a bulletproof vest under her sweater.
“We have two armies to go up against when we stand for our rights: We have to deal with the cops attacking us and we’re about to get a second wave of right-wing extremists. We’re fearful of them attacking us as well,” Zapata said.
The area around the McHenry Ave. Planned Parenthood clinic was finally cleared after 1 PM, but remnants of the altercation remained – with broken glass, pepper spray rounds, and unlit illegal fireworks visible. A total of three people were arrested, two straight pride supporters and one counter-protester.
Original reporting by Adam Echelman at The Modesto Bee.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick