On August 27, the fourth annual “Straight Pride Parade” organized by right-wing groups was met with fierce opposition in Modesto, California, as over 250 community members and organizers from Modesto and beyond gathered to protest and shut down the hate rally.
The far-right rally sought to promote an agenda of anti-LGBTQ bigotry, white supremacy and opposition to abortion rights by targeting a local Planned Parenthood facility. It took on special significance this year given the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the increased attacks on women and reproductive rights.
While this is the fourth year of this parade, it was met with an even larger showing of counterprotesters who arrived before the right-wingers in a strong show of solidarity with Planned Parenthood, the LGBTQ community and to defend reproductive rights. A small marching band played as people shouted chants in front of Planned Parenthood and prevented the right-wingers from occupying that space.
Even with a sizable gathering of community members and organizers, the counterprotest was met with a large presence of armed police and heavily armored vehicles. A confrontation erupted when a right-winger attempted to cross the police line and the police immediately declared the demonstration an unlawful assembly only 20 minutes after its official start time. In addition to blocking off traffic on a major road, the police fired pepper spray bullets and bean bags at point-blank range. Volunteer medics began treating people as the cops attempted to surround the protest and push everyone away from Planned Parenthood.
Unwilling to let the police’s use of force shut down the action, many participants marched militantly through the streets of Modesto chanting, “Whose streets?” “Our Streets!” Police followed from a distance as the counterprotesters continued into nearby neighborhoods, eventually just a single police car followed from a distance. Many cheered from their houses and some joined in the march.
Demonstrators made their way to Roosevelt Park and continued with their rally featuring speeches, not letting the violence bring down their spirits.
Nghia Nguyen of FAMILIA:TQLM highlighted the plight of ICE detainees as “they are being denied access to their medical needs as they face abuse …” Another community organizer, Ramsey Robinson, called for widespread unity as being divided prevents us “from getting to the root of our problems. And what is the root of our problem? It is capitalism.”
Speeches from other organizations and individuals present filled the atmosphere with hope and solidarity. There was also a sense of victory knowing that far-right demonstrators were kept away from Planned Parenthood, forced to relocate and were far reduced in numbers with only a dismal 20 to 30 overall participants.
The successful counterprotest lifted the spirits of community members and organizers as they stood in solidarity against right-wing elements and drove them out. The Central Valley of California will continue to build a movement against fascism in our community and continue the struggle for liberation. Fascists are not welcome here!