Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, The Grouch, The State
Last year, Don Grundmann, a former member of the militant pro-life group Operation Rescue, who has been involved in far-Right and pro-life groups for much of his life, finally gained his 15 minutes of fame after calling for a “Straight Pride Parade” in Modesto, California, located east of the bay area. Community opposition to the event drew out thousands in a series of protests and highly contested meetings, demanding that the city council not issue the group a permit. At one of the meetings, Grundmann famously declared, “We’re a totally peaceful racist group.”
Grundmann, writing on the California Straight Pride Coalition website, has argued that “Whiteness” and the “Caucasian race” are superior, along with Western Civilization, Nationalism, Christianity, and heterosexuality. Grundmann has also promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the past. According to Grundmann, the LGBTQ movement is waging a literal Satanic war on straight America for the purpose of turning us all – totally gay.
Stanislaus County Republican Assembly Promotes Straight Pride event
To help him in his war to ward the gay away, in 2019 Grundmann teamed up with his longtime friend, Mylinda Mason, a local Modesto area Republican organizer who is also the head of the Stanislaus County Republican Assembly, which fundraises for local GOP candidates and hosts monthly meet and greets between rank-n-file Republicans and GOP officials and would-be candidates. Despite having a close relationship with leading Republicans in the area, Mylinda harbors well known far-Right views. In the past, she’s unsuccessfully run for public office on an openly anti-LGBTQ platform and in recent months has also embraced Qanon, anti-Vaxx, and COVID-19 conspiracy theories which she promotes on social media, including through the official Stanislaus County Republican Assembly Facebook group.
Stanislaus County Republican Assembly Promoting Qanon Conspiracy Theory
In the lead up to the 2019 “Straight Pride Parade” in Modesto, Grundmann also stated in the media that he would mobilize 500 supporters along with members of the far-Right street gang the Proud Boys – however the group officially stated in a press release it wanted nothing to do with the event. But as Linkin Park would say, in the end, it didn’t even matter – Grundmann never had his parade. The City Council denied the permit, an attempted forum in a rented barn threw the group out like old dried-up horse poop, and a last-minute rally outside of Planned Parenthood only drew around 15 people, while hundreds of counter-protesters surrounded them.
Stanislaus County Republican Assembly Promotes COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories
Despite this epic fail, on Saturday, August 29th, 2020, Grundmann and Mason are returning yet again to protest in front of Planned Parenthood – and they’re bringing friends! Both those from within the far-Right movement who embrace violence as well as Qanon conspiracies, along with religious leaders tied to local congregations and police departments.
Stanislaus County Republican Assembly Promotes Vaccination Conspiracy Theories
“Straight Pride” and Ted Howze
Ted Howze and Mylinda Mason
When the Modesto Straight Pride event hit the news last year, many people took note that one of it’s key organizers, Mylinda Mason had developed a working relationship with local Republican elected official, Ted Howze, who had attended various Stanislaus County Republican Assembly events in the past. Howze would end up losing his Congressional seat to a Democrat, but is running again to reclaim it. Over the last year however, Howze has been in hot water for sharing a series of far-Right conspiracy theories and racist messages on social media. Howze has also followed Trump’s lead and released a series of campaign adds attacking the Black Lives Matter movement, despite his district experiencing zero riots and a rise in far-Right and white nationalist activity.
According to Newsweek:
Ted Howze was unendorsed by the California GOP Thursday after a series of offensive posts were allegedly found on his Facebook page. Howze has denied making the comments.
Republicans denounced the content of the posts and swiftly distanced themselves from Howze. After reviewing the posts, the California Republican Party chose to pull their endorsement of the candidate’s campaign.
When news hit of Howze promotion of racist hate on social media, some drew a direct connection to his relationship with Mylinda Mason. Despite the political heat and even the loss of his Congressional seat, Howze has continued to associate with the far-Right. According to the Stanislaus County Republican Assembly Facebook page, someone from Howze campaign even spoke before the group, which is run directly by Mason, in early 2020.
A Representative from Ted Howze Campaign Spoke Before Mylinda Mason’s Stanislaus County Republican Assembly Group in January of 2020
Howze also recently teamed up with Alt-Lite troll Scott Presler, formerly of the anti-Muslim hate group, Act for America, for a photo-opt event centered around clearing a homeless encampment on the edges of Turlock, CA. In 2019, Presler was involved in organizing a day of action for the racist group entitled, “March Against Sharia,” which falsely claimed that there is an increasing danger of America being placed under “Sharia Law.” Events across the country were heavily attended (and in some cases organized by) neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and Alt-Right groups. Clearly, like Trump, Howze is hedging his election bets on doubling-down on supporting the far-Right and its talking points.
Ted Howze (R) and Scott Presler (M). SOURCE: Turlock Journal
The Central Valley Militia
According to posts on Facebook, the racist and homophobic Modesto rally has also gained the attention of the “Central Valley Militia,” which is run by Jenya Marie, who is directly connected and affiliated with the Modesto chapter of the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys operate as a gang; members move up in the organization after carrying out acts of violence against the group’s enemies. The group also played a key role in organizing and fighting at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the group’s current leader, Enrique Tarrio, attended the event as part of the Proud Boys’s “military wing,” the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, which is currently facing a lawsuit for their role in the violence.
Central Valley Militia leader Jenya Marie SOURCE: FACEBOOK
Photos posted by Marie on social media show the local Proud Boys hanging out while wearing Central Valley Militia t-shirts; indicating mutual support and collaboration between the two organizations. Marie also posted a video while at a recent “Back the Blue” rally in Modesto, where she claimed local Proud Boys were also in attendance.
Members of the Modesto Proud Boys Hold Event While Wearing “Central Valley Militia” Shirts SOURCE: FACEBOOK
Posting on Facebook, the Central Valley Militia has indicated that it is mobilizing to bring people out for the rally – however the extent of the group’s membership remains unknown. At the time of this writing, the group was running two different Facebook pages with a total of 41 likes between the two.
Writing on social media, Marie made it clear that this would not be a “family friendly event.” Writing on Facebook she stated:
Not a family friendly event. Do not bring your children. The opposition will be there in full effect. And modesto police will not be there to help. ANYONE WHO OPPOSES CHILDREN BEING SAVED FROM SEX TRAFFICKING IS A PEDOPHILE THEMSELF. AND ID LOVE TO HAVE A CHAT W U
Marie then went on to encourage people to email the Central Valley Militia in order to “vet” who was coming to the event she was sure was going to turn violent, writing:
Even more concerning, is that Central Valley Militia leader’s Facebook page is also filled with violent attacks on Black Lives Matter and in praise of the Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17 year-old who is accused of murdering two people and injuring several others in Kenosha, MI. Marie’s Facebook is filled with meme’s which celebrate Kyle’s violent actions and encourage people to support him financially.
Social Media Posts in Support of Kyle Rittenhouse by Jenya Marie, Leader of the Central Valley Militia
Marie even went so far as to pen a personal message to would-be counter-protesters on Saturday, referencing the recent murders in Kenosha as a warning to anyone that would oppose far-Right groups. She wrote:
Last night, a few of your armed comrades got rolled by a 17 year old kid. One of them looked down and saw his buddy missing most of his face and screamed for the police, the same ones you want to defund. Another kneeled and cried as he looked down at the hole where his bicep use to be. The other laid on the ground with a gaping hole in his chest, bleeding out thinking “maybe I shouldn’t have hit that guy with my skateboard”….
…Just stop. It’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for you. Go back to your mom’s house, throw your Black Lives Matter shirt in the trash, give your mom her eyeliner back and go look for a job. Contribute to society and pay your mom some rent while you’re at it. This anarchy stuff ain’t for you. Just stop before the real men come out to play….
It should also be noted that the Central Valley Militia is promoting an event happening at the same time and place as Grundmann’s event, but under the umbrella of “Combating Human Trafficking,” which is directly connected to conspiracy theories like Pizzagate and Qanon, which center around the idiotic notion that Trump is waging a war against a group of Satanic cannibalistic pedophiles. In fact, far-Right and Qanon groups across the US are planning on attempting to hijack the very real issue of child sex trafficking and are planning a variety of rallies and protests on August 29th.
As the Kansas City Star wrote:
Protesters plan to gather outside City Hall in Kansas City on Saturday for a rally that organizers say will bring awareness to the issue of child sex trafficking.
But experts who track extremist groups say that many of these “Save Our Children” events taking place across the country in recent weeks have been co-opted by QAnon, a global conspiracy-driven movement that pushes the baseless belief that governments throughout the world are being controlled by a secret cabal of Democrats, Hollywood elites, the “deep state,” Satanic pedophiles and cannibals. Those evil forces will be brought to justice by President Donald Trump, followers believe, in an epic battle of biblical proportions.
QAnon adherents, experts say, are showing up at the “Save our Children” rallies to promote their conspiracy theories and spread them to a wider — and more mainstream — audience. “It seems like they’ve hijacked the ‘Save Our Children’ movement, infiltrating it and putting their spin on it,” said Daryl Johnson, a former terrorism analyst for the Department of Homeland Security.
Central Valley Militia Leader Promotes Human Trafficking Conspiracy Theories Linked to Qanon
Wanting to know more about the connections between “Save the Children,” far-Right conspiracy theories like Qanon, and what’s happening in Modesto, It’s Going Down reached out to Left Coast Right Watch to get more of a low-down. They stated in a private message over social media:
The Proud Boys in particular have a penchant for hopping on the bandwagon of whatever the far-right/modern fascist movement is rallying around at the moment. They did this with the anti-quarantine “Re-Open” protests, they tried to bandwagon onto Nick Fuentes’s America First thing and now this. Other movements like the Boogaloo Boys are also jumping on the “Save our Children” bandwagon as well. Right-wing extremists want to find any excuse to commit violence and get away with it.
That’s part of the reason why so many right wing extremists baselessly label the ‘other’ as pedophiles. The “Save Our Children” thing serves other purposes for them. In addition to whipping up anger over imaginary pedophiles as most right-wingers do anyways, the “Save the Children” bandwagon lets any right-wing group jump on the Qanon bandwagon without specifically commuting to Qanon beliefs. This in turn provides Qanon cultists cover to deny what they’re really about at these rallies.
The Central Valley Militia people (or person) from what I can tell are more aligned with the Proud Boys. Qanon believers tend to proclaim what they’re about using a specific set of memes and slogans. I don’t see that here. In addition, it has to be said that “pedophilia” is often a signifier for LGBTQ+ people who have long been a target for right-wing violence—the “homosexual agenda” conspiracy comes to mind. Thus, child trafficking and Qanon conspiracies are often cover for hatred of queer people.
Despite the differences in packaging from either the Straight Pride group or the Central Valley Militia camp, on Marie’s Facebook commenters made it clear that both groups were very much in contact with each other. Responding to Marie’s statement that the event would not be family friendly, one person replied:
What do you mean? We planned on joining together our events.. our event will be family friendly.. what do you have planned?
On the official California Straight Pride Coalition Facebook, Jenya Marie, leader of the Central Valley Militia, is also listed as a member of the group.
Membership list of the California Straight Pride Coalition Lists Central Valley Militia Leader Jeyna Marie as a Member
Local Religious Leaders Connected to Police Departments Sign On
While everything from Mylinda Mason’s embrace of Qanon, Grundmann’s batshit stupid hatred of queer and trans people, to the violence obsessed idiots in the Central Valley Militia and the Proud Boys may all appear to many as on the fringes, there’s clear evidence that Grundmann has been able to build inroads into local establishment circles.
In a video published by the Sierra Foothills Stump, Grundmann is seen meeting with local religious leader “Aubrey McGann, pastor for Valley Bible Fellowship, chaplain for the Modesto Police Department, and member of Modesto Police Clergy Council,” in July of 2020. In the video, which was recorded inside the home (“the Patriotic Cottage”) of Mylinda Mason, Grundmann discusses his beliefs with McGann, who seemingly agrees with Grundmann’s worldview.
Aubrey McGann, pastor for Valley Bible Fellowship, chaplain for the Modesto Police Department, and member of Modesto Police Clergy Council
Grundmann is also even further connected to Rev. David Preston Bush, the minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sonora, California, located about an hour east of Modesto. According to Bush’s website:
Pastor Dave also serves the community as chaplain for the Sonora Police Department and Toulumne County Sheriff’s Office.
A July 2020 article in the Union Democrat, published in the Sonora area wrote:
David Bush, pastor of Oak Hill Presbyterian Church, is allied with Straight Pride Coalition, which last year staged a protest against gay rights and intends to hold another in August. His denomination, Orthodox Presbyterian, advises its members that homosexuality is a six and transgender is a psychological condition not based in reality. It cautions though, that people should be approached with compassion to encourage them to change.
Bush can also be seen taking part in organizing the second annual Straight Pride event in a video recorded at Mylinda Mason’s home in July of 2020.
The situation in Modesto shows the degree in which conspiracy theorists, far-Right groups, and local Republican organizers all collide and feed off each other. Easy to dismiss and at times small in number, these fringe groups are still part of a much larger structure that goes all the way up to President Trump. Those that ignore their threats of violence – or worse yet, encourage people to not mobilize in defense against them, do so at their own peril as American society rushes head first into full blown fascism.