PROUD BOYS RALLY BEHIND RELIGIOUS BIGOTS TO INTIMIDATE MODESTO LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY
September 14, 2020 by SIERRA FOOTHILLs STUMP STAFF | LCRW STAFF
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This story was originally published by the Sierra Foothills Stump. You can read the original here and support the Stump on Patreon here.
Last year, Don James Grundmann, a religious bigot with ties to the Proud Boys and founder of the National Straight Pride Coalition, tried to hold a “Straight Pride Parade” in Modesto, CA. Grundmann’s intent was to hijack the “Straight Pride” branding of a Boston-based fascist group called Resist Marxism, who got national attention for the stunt. To capitalize off the Boston event, Grundmann wanted to hold his event a week before Resist Marxism’s. At the first Straight Pride Event in Modesto last year, the National Straight Pride Coalition struggled with PR, denied permits due to lack of insurance, and then the day of the event a handful of bigots got chased out of a barn they rented for the event by the owners, and got shouted down by a hundred or more antifascists, and liberals from the Modesto Pride Center.
This year, it was a rough one.
SABINE ON THE MORNING SHIFT
Sabine of the Sierra Foothills Stump parked their car two houses up the street from the address they were given on Facebook. The house belonged to Melinda and Ron Mason. The STUMP was told the National Straight Pride Coalition was meeting there before going to the “secret meeting location” where the Second Annual Stanislaus County Straight Pride Event would host its speakers. An attendee of the event whom Sabine had exchanged messages with days prior provided them with the address, stating if they had questions or wanted to watch the speakers they could arrive before 8:30 and follow them to their meeting location.
The house wasn’t difficult to find–just spot the home which looks like a Fourth of July sale vomited on the yard. It had a sickly yellow paint job, a dozen American flags and decorations on the lawn and walkway, a car decal with the words “STANISLAUS COUNTY FOR THE STATE OF JEFFERSON 51” on the back window, and an American flag painted on the curb under their home number.
Dubbed, appropriately, “The Patriotic Cottage,” the house belonged to Melinda and Ron Mason. The Masons have opened their home to a variety of conservative groups and churches over the years as they did on that day to members of the National Straight Pride Coalition, Proud Boys, and Central Valley Militia. Melinda (styled Mylinda) Gail Mason, a Christian supremacist and anti-choice activist, is the Stanislaus County organizer for the National Straight Pride Coalition and co-organizer of that day’s Straight Pride Event. Ronald E. Mason works humbly as a realtor for PMZ, but despite his quiet and reserved demeanor is dedicated wholly to his wife’s causes and is an active participant in her crusades.
Sabine arrived at 8:20, told to arrive before 8:30 since the keynote speaker, Jesse Lee Peterson, was going to talk shortly after 9:00 AM. For a while they sat and contemplated the option of going up to the front door to see if they’d let them sit in on the speakers.
As they sat debating the risks of an agender trans femme (or simply “queer af”) in a “Black Lives Matter Portland” shirt going up to the house of a woman whose own son calls her ideology “white supremacy,” the choice was made for them.
At 8:35 multiple vehicles parked on the block and a contingent of around 14 men quickly assembled in front of the Masons’ home. The majority wore clothing boasting their political allegiance to the Proud Boys, Central Valley Militia, and Boogaloo Movement. Some went into the Mason’s house, while others returned to their vehicles to get gear or left, presumably to go to Planned Parenthood where their actual protest was to be held. Other people continued to arrive in the lead up to the event kicking off.
Don Grundman told the Modesto Bee that he had not coordinated with the Proud Boys or Central Valley Militia, who were putting on a QAnon conspiracy-adjacent “Save the Children” event at the same time and location, yet they pre-gamed and organized at the Mason’s home with Grundmann present.
9:00 AM rolled around the Second Straight Pride Event was supposed to kick off any moment, but Melinda Mason and Don Grundmann were still in the house. Grundmann poked his head out every so often to look up and down the street as if expecting someone.
And it turns out, he was. One of their speakers, Pastor Bruce E. Rivers had not arrived, but got on livestream shortly after 9:00 AM to inform them that he would not be making it on account of car troubles. Shortly thereafter, Grundmann took to livestream. The “secret meeting location” was never a separate location, but Melinda’s own home–Grundmann has a habit of creating mystery and intrigue while actually being basic.
Grundmann kicked-off the event with his usual rhetoric about LGBTQIA2+ being the current incarnation of NAMBLA, the banker “plantation masters” who control the government through “house negros,” and the LGBT war machine being Satanist/humanists. Then there a trio of women referring to themselves as the “cowgirls from the Bay Area” led the room in psalm.
Jesse Lee Peterson took the “podium” in Melinda’s dining room and went off on his own deplorable rant making wild claims that “Jim Crow wasn’t that bad” and “Jesus would never wash a lesbian’s feet.” While Jesse Lee Peterson spoke, a few Proud Boys came and went, one returning with a large can of mace in his pocket.
Pastor Aubrey McGann, chaplain with the Modesto Police and Clergy Council and chaplain for the Modesto Police Department arrived and went inside to join the group.
Once back in front of the camera, Grundmann discussed their plans for their protest. They would be parking in the same parking lot the Modesto Pride-backed caravan counter-protest was assembling.
Jenya Marie of the Central Valley Militia and Central Valley Proud Boys were monitoring Planned Parenthood for counter-protesters, passing information to those inside the Mason’s home. Grundmann revealed their signs would be held on PVC pipes up to 10 feet long–flag poles have been used by Proud Boys as weapons at previous protests. He confirmed that some of the attendees had come from Los Angeles, CA.
After wrapping up the livestream early they switched gears to loading their vehicles for their assault on Planned Parenthood. A Central Valley Proud Boy and Jesse Lee Peterson drove to Planned Parenthood together while a black Nissan Armada carried a full vehicle of Proud Boys to the scene. All the vehicles, at least eight, had left Melinda’s house by 11:34 AM.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD IT IS
Abner from LCRW was running on three and a half hours of sleep. He passed a campaign flag on someone’s farm on the drive over. It was clumsily lashed to a fence and all bunched up in an unfortunate way. Unintentionally it read:
“TRUMP 2020: MORE BULLSHIT”
LCRW and the rest of the STUMP crew arrived at Planned Parenthood on McHenry in Modesto, CA around 10 am. There were barricades on Coolidge and Claradell. Some people were doing chalk drawing of LGBTQ+ inspired pride flags. A parking lot a block over had some people in MAGA hats getting out of trucks and SUVs. One of them had a Hawaiian shirt on, attire commonly worn as uniform in the Boogaloo Movement.
When we got to the corner of Claradell and McHenry, a gaggle of Proud Boys were waiting around. One of the Proud Boys who goes by “Odin” came up to us, still upset Abner hadn’t really mentioned LCRW the first time he spoke to their chapter in Sacramento over a year and a half earlier. Odin gave the same tired line about how they’re not racist, waving his Norse rune-covered arms around while telling Abner he’s a Muslim.
“It was personally difficult because I’m a heathen and I wear Mjolnir around my neck,” Gabriel Damascene, a Modesto local who came out to counter-protest told LCRW. “It was pretty galling to have some of the Proud Boys calling me “brother” when they’ve taken a side with people whose interpretation of Christianity would not permit people to follow the Old Ways.”
Three cops showed up to talk to us as if we reporters were the opposition.
“We’re not standing out here with riot gear and sticks in between two groups. We’re counting on everyone to be adults–to abide by the law, to express their right to free speech but be peaceful about it,” he said.
Abner asked him what their red line for stepping in would be. The cop shrugged.
“I’m not gonna be out here on the ground. It’s–there’s literally an infinite number of possibilities as to what could happen and I’m not going to sit here–I mean, we could ‘what if’ all day and our goal is to have everyone abide by the law.” He repeatedly said that their main concern was antifascist counter-protestors turning their attention to the police.
“I don’t want this to be seen as about us–and this–straight pride–for everyone to forget what they’re here for and for this to turn into an anti-law enforcement campaign–from–from either side,” he said. We got the impression he thought we’d argue with him.
Odin the Proud Boy came back up and started having a tedious “debate” with the STUMP crew. Abner mostly didn’t pay attention. Odin did a version of that line all the fascists were saying in 2017 about how everybody throughout history conquers so nobody can criticize the U.S. Abner was bored out of his mind.
More of the militia, American Guard and Proud Boys marched up behind us on the other side of the street. Odin asserted that the Proud Boys aren’t violent and that any of us could freely walk through their crowd.
This would ultimately prove to be untrue.
Around 11:30 we saw some QAnon people show up with their kids. One of them had a sign that said “Q sent me.”
“I think It’s cool. I think there’s a plan,” one Proud Boy told Abner when asked his thoughts on QAnon much later in the afternoon. That was about all he would say.
“I’m not a big Q follower. I don’t know what to think, really. I don’t know too much about it,” Odin told me a bit later. “I think it could be a bit conspiratorial in my opinion. Based on the president’s–they asked him a question about it the other day–he seemed a little bit–He knew about it but it didn’t seem like he was part of it. But again, I don’t know. I don’t know too much about it.”
“It’s easy to make up conspiracies. C’mon–you guys do it about the Proud Boys all the time–that we’re racist and all this yet we have so many mixed people in this group,” Odin added. He kept trying to push that point on me all day, serving as the Proud Boy’s defacto public relations officer for the rally.
“Very few of the people that were there were actually locals. Proud Boys in particular said they’d come from as far away as San Diego and Bakersfield,” Damascene said. The STUMP and LCRW’s cursory analysis of the rally found right-wingers had traveled from nearly every major metropolitan area in California to the rally.
“Apart from their poor, pathetic group of fringe extremists, none of their people were local. This is not representative of Modesto or the region,” Damascene said.
“When I asked some of the Proud Boys why they were there (they spurned last year’s event, distancing themselves from Grundmann), they said they were there to oppose pedophilia and child trafficking. Which…bullshit but whatever,” Damascene recalled. Anti-pedophilia is the far-right’s bandwagon du jour. “Save the Children” rallies started as a cover for QAnon cultists, but groups from the Boogaloo Movement to the Proud Boys to Grundmann and Mason’s “National Straight Pride Coalition” are latching onto it.
“Grundmann and Mason probably couldn’t get the Proud Boys for the same shit they tried last year, but the QAnon shit worked,” Damascene said.
“That band of fashies probably had no real idea what their message even was,” Damascene continued. “Are they against queer pride? Are they against BLM, Planned Parenthood, pedophiles, Joe Biden, and on and on. QAnon does provide them with an overarching conspiracy narrative to tie all those things together.”
An old man in a car drove up and said “has anteefuh showed up yet?” One of the Proud Boys pointed at us and said, “Right there.”
About half an hour later, their crowd was starting to get much larger. Our combined three people were completely surrounded at this point, so we moved to the sidewalk opposite the Proud Boys in front of Planned Parenthood.
The Proud Boys brought out a scrub brush and a bucket of water and tried to erase the LGBTQ chalk flags. Despite their best efforts, the chalk drawings got wet, yet still remained perfectly intact. Guess those colors don’t run.
After this, a few of the Proud Boys or Central Valley Militia or whatever they wanted to be called posed with a big banner. Some of them were in Boogaloo attire. The banner had a graphic of a rifle on it that said “#PATRIOTS AGAINST PEDOPHILIA. ONE CURE. LUKE 17:2.”
In the New International Version, Luke 17:2 reads “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Other versions translate the last part of the verse as “cause one of these little ones to fall into sin” instead. Anyways, they’re explicitly saying they want to kill people they think are pedophiles. According to one Proud Boy shirt, “Proud Boys All of our enemies are pedophiles.”
THE COUNTER-PROTEST SHOWS UP
As it got closer and closer to 11 AM the three of us where still holding that block alone. Eventually around 11 AM three more counter-protesters joined us — two of them holding a Black Lives Matter/Trans Pride flag. One Proud Boy verbally and physically threatened a young black man who was holding one end of the flag. A guy on a bullhorn’s bad faith questions to them went from “Do unborn black babies’ lives matter?” over the course of the day to just screaming about “black on black crime” and “Chicago” and “homes without fathers.” Same playbook since the Southern Strategy. The guy on the bullhorn called a young black woman who was holding up half of the flag “white.”
“Uh…I’m black,” she said. I don’t think bullhorn guy heard her. For a while another man was in her personal space trying to lecture her on premarital sex. He kept babbling nonsense about unmarried people getting wedded in hell. He was later overheard screaming about how George Floyd died of an overdose. The Nazis used similar smears and conspiracies against Heather Heyer after Unite the Right.
A Proud Boy on his own bullhorn started trying to challenge a young man holding up the other half of the Trans black lives matter flag to a fight.
“You raise that fist up in the air, but can you throw it? What if I challenge you to mutual combat?” the Proud Boy said into the bullhorn about two feet away from his ear.
That Proud Boy was wearing studded knuckle gloves and a helmet.
By this point a few more counter-protesters had joined us. There were probably 12 non-right-wingers in total including our crew. The Proud Boys proceeded to make a line in front of us. They had us locked in from two sides at this point and were blocking passers-by from seeing any of the pro-LGBTQ+ signs. It was starting to get hot–both the temperature and the Proud Boys’ tempers. One Proud Boy walked through our line and purposefully elbowed an elder then proceeded to yell in his face’
“Watch where you are going!” Hughes shouted like he was a high school bully.
An antifascist who gave LCRW the name “Danny” was part of a crew in black bloc that checked on us.
“I was texting one of my friends who was still at Planned Parenthood and realized they were in a bad situation so I gathered a group of around 10 people to go extract them,” Danny recalled.
Things weren’t looking good in front of the clinic. Danny’s crew kept trying to get people out of the fray.
“When we went to extract y’all, as we were walking by an old man with a pipe picked out my partner and said “fuck you” getting so close to her face that his pipe hit her in the head,” Danny recounted.
Some of the counter-protesters kept stopping to argue with the right-wingers as if it were a flame war on someone’s Facebook wall. One stopped to talk to local news and held everybody up. One of the extraction team screamed “This isn’t a fucking game! We have to go!”
“Several proud boys tried to start shit with us and were following us out, but we eventually got across the street and engaged in yelling matches,” Danny recalled.
When we’d temporarily cleared some distance, the group decided to cross the street and post up opposite from the Planned Parenthood. By now the drive-by support from Mo Pride and their few on-the-ground protesters had arrived. Those in their cars stopped traffic and gave a solid break for our group to move safely across the road.
ACROSS THE STREET
We regrouped at “The Tint Shop”– a business across from Planned Parenthood. From here we were joined by a few more counter-protesters from Mo Pride and our counter-protest grew to be about 30 people strong, the Proud Boys were at hundreds. Don Grundmann and Melinda Mason’s party had arrived. They had shoddy PVC and wooden crosses. One sign said “Black Genocide! Blacks killed here!” It was referring to abortion. Another said “Matan Negros Aqui.”
Two right-wingers came over to heckle the antifascists–a younger Black man in a Trump hat identified by the STUMP as Jason Phillips, and a middle-aged white man identified by the STUMP as Joshua Allen Fulfer, a Clovis, CA resident and member of Stop the Madness CUSD (Clovis Union School District. When not advocating against the human rights of transgender students, Fulfer is notorious for antagonizing and encouraging violence online and at rallies.
Fulfer wore a t-shirt depicting a young man holding a rifle. Below his portrait were the words “AMERICAN HERO” in red comic sans. LCRW asked him to explain who’s on the shirt.
“Kyle–An American hero. He had a pedophile attack him and he shot back in self-defense,” he said.
Kyle Rittenhouse murdered two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin and maimed another with his rifle after he came up from out of state to play militia alongside a neo-Nazi. He quickly became a right-wing folk hero for shooting Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
In LCRW’s live coverage, Abner started calling Fulfer “cum guy.” This was because of an unknown, white viscous substance around the groin-area on the outside of Fulfer’s trousers. Fulfer insisted it was snot, but witnesses agreed it was cum. A poll LCRW conducted after posting clear video of the white substance ended with 1076 votes. 76.2% of respondents believed the substance was cum while 23.8% believed it was snot.
Fulfer and the other right-winger continued to get in peoples’ faces and shout for about ten to fifteen minutes. Fulfer was particularly aggressive and spontaneous. At one point he challenged a protester to go around the corner and fight him. During that time, the guy in the Trump hat sexually harassed one of the counter-protestors, who spoke to LCRW on condition of anonymity.
“I’m more in complete shock that he thought he had the right to dry hump me because I stood in front of him. I thought it was very strange for a man to do that to a woman he doesn’t know anything about–especially my age,–yet is protesting against pedophilia?” the protester told LCRW.
She said that she tried to tell the right-wingers about the man sexually harassing her but was met with shouts of “I can’t hear you!”
“I got told if I wouldn’t stop running my mouth I would get head butted by the man who is rumored to have jizzed in his pants,” the protester recounted. “When other people confronted the man humping me, he said, ‘but she stood right in front of me.’ That is what I remember word for word the most. It was so hectic honestly!”
After about ten or fifteen minutes of harassing people, they got in their car, flew a big Trump 2020 flag and left. They’d return later. LCRW did not confirm whether the white substance on the driver’s jeans got on the steering wheel or not.
OUR REPORTER GETS ATTACKED
When Sabine arrived at Planned Parenthood they walked through the sea of Central Valley Militia, Proud Boys, American Guard, cultists of QAnon, and III%ers looking to meet up with rest of the STUMP and LCRW.
While taking pictures from in front of Planned Parenthood a Proud Boy read their shirt which read “Black Lives Matter Portland” before saying, “You know they [Black people] don’t care about you. You’re a cuck.” As if compassion for others is weakness, but these are the same people that wore shirts which proclaimed “Proud Boys All of our enemies are pedophiles.”
While attempting to pass back through the crowd, a person with a ginger beard, black sunglasses, blue tartan shirt, and a “Yolo County Fair Auction Supporter” hat repeatedly blocked Sabine with his arm before shoving them backwards. Blue-shirt-red-beard obviously was out of line and scolded by his friends.
Whatever faux concern they expressed quickly dissipated as Sabine still needed to cross back through to the crosswalk. They were told to walk in the street because they couldn’t pass along the sidewalk. The far-right mob physically blocked Sabine’s path and at times shoved them backwards while making violent threats.. Sabine wouldn’t back down, and right-wingers began making threats that they’d smash Sabine’s face in, kick their ass, and fuck me up. This quickly escalated to them surrounding Sabine and proceeded to literally manhandle the reporter, grabbing, shoving, pulling and ultimately throwing them out of the crowd.
While attempting to pass through the crowd again, another person, an older man LARPing security for the far-right protesters continued to physically shove and threaten Sabine before once again having a handful of the violent mob once again grabbed and pushed Sabine backwards towards the street, shoving them into one of their own supporters and their child.
Sabine asked three officers standing not more than 20’ away who had been watching the altercation if they’d seen the assault, but the officers timidly turned their heads and implied they hadn’t witnessed anything, shaking their head when asked if they wanted to see the video.
Understanding the escalation of violence, Sabine stepped off the curb to walk in front of the crowd and get to the crosswalk to cross the street. As they were walking, multiple rightists attempted to block and even shove Sabine back into the street when they tried getting back on the sidewalk. A person in a solid blue shirt and black sunglasses grabbed Sabine and partially dragged them down the street, while grabbing at Sabine’s phone which was still recording. He let go of Sabine when att attempting to shove them into traffic.
The next few moments seemed to drag on for hours, but across the street from Planned Parenthood, LCRW and rest of the STUMP crew’s gazes were fixated on our friend Sabine. She was in very serious danger in that moment. This was when Odin’s assertions that anyone would be free to walk the sides from earlier would prove untrue.
Our eyes followed her every step. About half way through the crowd a Proud Boy grabbed her and began trying to throw her into traffic. The STUMP crew and LCRW sprinted across 4 lanes of traffic to extract her. A woman from Mo Pride came across the street with us, trying to tell us what to do. We shouted at her that we were getting our friend out. A Proud Boy stepped out to our right flank and yelled at us, mocking Abner and calling him fat. We made contact with our comrade and safely escorted her out of the crowd.
Once on the sidewalk adjacent the Proud Boys rally, our retreat was not yet complete. We were immediately closed in on by a group of Proud Boys, in that group was Kristopher Dreww “The Adorable Deplorable.” They were yelling and screaming at the Mo Pride organizer, for the most part, since she was the only one with us even responding to their vitriol. One of the rightist protesters, someone claiming to be a “gay for Trump,” was screaming questions and rants into a bullhorn placed directly in the ears of counter-protesters. The Mo Pride member made the argument to them that it was “sonic assault.” We kept telling her we need to go and when she finally relented she seemed more concerned that she was right than that we were in danger. We were then able to safely complete our retreat and get our comrade to the safety of our group.
THE POLICE INTERVENE AGAINST A KID ON A BIKE
Once back to our group we enjoyed a small moment of peace. Mo Pride dropped off a case of water for the counter protesters, and the drive by protest was making enough noise to disrupt the Proud Boys and take their attention off of us for just a moment. We regrouped and protesters exchanged a few chants back and forth.
“A kid rode past the Proud Boys on his bike and popped a wheelie. He was stopped by Modesto PD who put him in cuffs and seized his bike. He wasn’t wearing a helmet,” Damascene recalled. The kid was apparently let go and ticketed, though reportedly his bicycle was confiscated.
Then a car got pulled over after hi-fiving some of the counter-demonstrators still lingering on the fascist side. Half the antifascists ran over to shout at the cops who pulled them over. Several squad cars blocked the side street and one unmarked car swerved and nosed into the sidewalk right by where a protester was standing, nearly hitting them. An officer got out brandishing a baton.
There were some shouting matches but eventually the cops dispersed. No ticket appeared to be written and the vehicle was allowed to leave. Modesto PD were spotted in multiple unmarked vehicles throughout the day.
The Modesto Police Department ultimately shutdown the caravan counter-protest by stationing two bulldozers at opposite intersections between Planned Parenthood, closing the street to vehicle traffic.
THEY SURROUND US AND CHASE US OUT
For a while it was just a shouting match across the road, but after the Modesto Police Department shut down the stretch of McHenry, Abner noticed a right-wingers began crossing the street, and came where the counter-protesters were to blast us with their bullhorns. Among them was Kim Sorgente of Huntington Beach, CA who the OC Weekly called “a Proud Boys Reject.” The Proud Boy packing mace seen at the Masons’ house earlier that day was one of the first people to cross the street.
Sorgente always has this chant that goes “No commies, no pedophiles, no child sacrifice!” So you know, just blood libel shit. He’d handed his bullhorn over to the guy who was screaming about how George Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose. An American Guard guy came up and wagged his knuckled glove-covered middle-finger in Abner’s camera. We were once again getting surrounded. Abner was positioned to the right flank when he heard the commotion from around the corner on our left flank in his blind spot.
“I stared several of them down that were in my face and they backed off from me. Didn’t stop them pushing back on physically smaller comrades though,” Damascene recalled. He said that one kept telling me to go around the corner with him because ‘mutual combat is legal in the state of California.’”
Throughout the rally, we noticed several of the right-wingers trying to engage counter-protesters in fights. LCRW observed several militiamen waiting anxiously on the corner that Fulfer and others were trying to lead people towards.
A group of particularly aggressive Proud Boys were on our left flank agitating protesters along with our middle-finger wagging American Guard friend. In front of us was Fulfer and his cohort agitating our people. I moved to our left flank. I didn’t realize they were boxing us in again at this point.
On our left one protester had her bullhorn pulled out of her hand and one of the STUMP crew had their phone smacked out of their hand by the Proud Boys. The American Guard member tried to knock Sabine’s camera out of their hand as well. He failed.
At the front of our line of counter-protesters Fulfer and the other right-wingers were busy antagonizing people. One girl threw water at Fulfer. It was all the excuse they needed to escalate. Dozens of Proud Boys began running across the street as fast as they could. Don Grundmann and other National Straight Pride Coalition supporters joined the far-right groups crossing the street to confront counter-protesters
“Who the fuck threw that water?” one of them yelled. They were ready to fight, and had us boxed in again.
“When the Proud Boys crossed the street and tried to surround us, one of them actually had the Betsy Ross flag on bamboo–which was visibly larger than 3/4” AND had a sharpened point at the end. MPD never once challenged him about the size of the pole or the fact that it could easily be a weapon, even when the Proud Boys were clearly behaving in a much more aggressive manner,” Damascene recalled.
“At one point they were all chanting ‘Fuck Antifa,’” Danny recalled. “The fascists pretty obviously wanted things to escalate.”
The Mo Pride Organizer and our crew realized the situation we were now in and began to pull our people back from the new lines. The plan was to pull back to the next corner and hold it down. We moved and got all our people to the new corner, but the Proud Boys where not about to let up.
They continued to press us, screaming far right tropes and resumed challenging various people to “mutual combat.” They filled the cross street and spilled out onto McHenry. This new position left our back open and the Proud Boys took the opportunity to begin encircling us. They began playing the national anthem over a shitty, blown speaker. Some of the right-wingers started removing their hats and standing for the anthem. Odin asked Abner if he’d felt threatened earlier when it was just LCRW and his two colleagues. Abner just looked at him. Odin continued, “Come on, man! We didn’t do anything to threaten you!” Abner responded, “I’m always on guard at this shit.”
A handful of the liberals that came with Mo Pride decided now was the time to take a knee in respect to the national anthem. The STUMP crew told them that they need to get up because we are being surrounded and need to move again. They were right as the rightists forcing us down the street again attempted to overwhelm. Our crew helped mobilize the counter-protesters and led a retreat up the street away from far-right mob.
After the anthem we got most of the counter-protestors to get the fuck up and back off. From there it was a few blocks of being followed back to our cars. They followed every step of the way. A few of the liberals in our group stopped to try to argue with the violent mob as we made our way up the street. One tried to perform an interview. It appeared the gravity of the situation potentially lost on a few of them. We wrangled them again, stressing the situation we were in, and that we were being followed back to our cars.
Back on McHenry, rest of the STUMP crew and LCRW made it another half block or so before the marched stopped again due to someone stopping to argue with Proud Boys. It became apparent that we would have to split from the main group if we were going to make it out safe. One of the Mo Pride people loudly announced they were headed back to their cars and asked us where we were going. “This way,” my colleague said. We headed in the opposite direction. We split down a side street then clicked up with a friendly and made it back to our cars.
BACK AT THE PATRIOTIC COTTAGE
Coming to the event separately from rest of the crew, Sabine was parked in a different location and slipped to their vehicle. One of the protesters followed and took pictures of their car and license plate.
Sabine returned to the Patriotic Cottage on Sunrise Ave., and once again assumed their position up the street waiting to see who would return for the afternoon speakers.
Only a handful of people returned to the Mason’s house to listen to the final speakers. Neither Jesse Lee Peterson, nor any of the Proud Boys or Central Valley Militia returned.
Due to technical incompetence on the part of the National Straight Pride Coalition, the final livestream was unwatchable due to a poor connection. Only the first few minutes of Pastor Aubrey McGann was recorded, but in those few minutes McGann admits to coordinating with the Modesto Police Department to protect their protesters.
“I kinda went incognito today. And I texted the…I went a little early and saw what was gathering… The opposition was gathering. I texted the chief and told him what I saw. He texted me back immediately and he said we’re all over it. He said and ummm…if things get out of line there would be over 100 police officers very close by,” McGann said.
McGann continued by bringing attention to two people arrested personally by the Modesto chief of police, before going into a rambling story about the chief to show the type of person he is. Unfortunately around the 4:20 mark the video begins lagging every second rendering it unwatchable.
THE ATTEMPTED CAR ATTACK
Despite violence committed by the far-right mob throughout the day, all counter-protesters managed to leave without serious injury. However, there was one more incident of violence The STUMP and LCRW spoke to two witnesses.
“While waiting for part of our group, we stood at the corner of McHenry and Granger,” a female protester who didn’t want to be named told the STUMP. She said she was waiting for another part of the group who were across the street diagonally still talking with the right-wingers.
“It was a calm discussion about them coming up from San Diego and their beliefs that as men they have the obligation to lead women,” the protester recalled.
“After we’d been forced to retreat by the fascists, a group of us were walking people back to their cars,” Damascene recalled. The person who had been handcuffed for riding his bike without a helmet was crossing the street to join them.
“A small pickup was making a turn and slowed at first when the driver saw the kid,” Damascene continued. “The driver shouted something at the kid and the kid shouted something back, I didn’t hear either one clearly, and the driver literally aimed his truck at the kid and accelerated.”
“As he almost got off the street and onto the sidewalk, the man in the blue truck sped up a bit and swerved his truck as if he was going to run him over and then sped off when some of the people in our group ran up,” the female protester recounted.
“The kid had to leap out of the way to avoid getting hit,” Damascene recalled. “I’ve seen cars accelerate past pedestrians, and this wasn’t it. The truck’s trajectory was clearly aimed at the kid and not at simply continuing down the street.”
“A group of us shouted at the sheriffs who were nearby to do something and some of us took off after the truck,” Damascene said.
“There was a police officer right on the left turn lane in an unmarked car who, after we yelled at him, turned his lights on and made a U-turn to go and stop him,” the female protester recalled. She said that “a young woman in our group ran after the truck a good quarter mile down. She said she wasn’t going to let him get away.”
More squad cars blocked the truck and detained the driver. Police asked witnesses to point out the kid who was almost run over. The kid asked not to be pointed out and people respected his wishes.
The woman from Mo Pride persistently attempted to convince the victim to give a statement to the police so the attacker could be arrested. “The kid did not want to talk to police again–especially after what happened earlier,” Damascene recounted. Several witnesses gave statements. One drove with an officer to identify the attacker.
“It bears mentioning that had cops not impounded the kid’s bike, he wouldn’t have even been walking home,” Damascene concluded. “Police did get enough witnesses to arrest him, but who knows what will actually happen?”
Gloating their “win”, participants in the far-right mob, including Steven Johnson and his friend in the Trump hat, drove around the block in circles for half an hour. While driving away from the scene one of these people harassed them and took a picture of them driving.
“I think we did the best we could, given the situation, and probably had the best outcome possible. We lost but we were able to confront them in the streets and leave with no one hurt,” Danny reflected.
“On the withdrawal of the nonprofits, I honestly don’t blame them as they had valid reasons. I do think the messaging could have been better. I think if a boots on the ground component had been maintained with the cars as an alternative, that would have been more tactically sound.
But I definitely understand fears about COVID, etc.,” Damascene told LCRW.
“I think the local nonprofits really dropped the ball. They put us in a position where we were greatly outnumbered. But it was nice to see one of their leaders joining us and making sure everyone was safe,” Danny concluded. “The whole car rally thing really hurt the event in my opinion.”
To sum up our feelings on what happened today: we got played. Grundmann used his known ties to the Proud Boys and other groups to bolster their numbers; the actual National Straight Pride Coalition members and supporters numbered less than 20 of the protesters. Further, at least one National Straight Pride Coalition member, Aubrey McGann, admitted to exploiting his connections with the Modesto Police Department for their goals that day. Then the Proud Boys hid the fact that this was a Proud Boys rally by rebranding as the “Central Valley Militia.” Then they simultaneously attracted religious zealots and QAnon cultists while hiding all of this behind the pretense of protesting against child trafficking. Don Grundman and Melinda Mason brought a violent band of out-of-town fascist thugs to the streets of Modesto specifically to intimidate the local LGBTQIA2+ community.
SIERRA FOOTHILLs STUMP STAFF
The Sierra Foothills Stump is a fledgling publication that reports on a part of California with a lot of stories and not much coverage. This article first ran on their Patreon page on the 24th. You can follow their important work on Twitter at @SabineSFS. Please consider supporting them on Patreon, where you can read their work until their site is off the ground. You can also make make a one-time donation to the Stump through Cash App.
LCRW staff wrote this article under the supervision of Editor in Chief Abner Häuge.
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