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‘Straight Pride’ is a dangerous sham with tentacles of hate (UPDATED)

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‘Straight Pride’ organizer Mylinda Mason with Republican candidate Ted Howze and cardboard Donald Trump. (Photo from Mason’s social media)

The FBI announced on Aug. 6 that it is launching a domestic terrorism investigation into the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival after investigators discovered a list of other potential targets. On July 28, a 19-year-old gunman used an AK-47 style semiautomatic weapon to kill three and wound 13 others before turning the gun on himself.

There is no evidence that this mass shooting triggered others but six days later, on Aug. 3, a 21-year-old opened fire on mostly Latino back-to-school shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 and injuring 26 people. The following day, a 24-year-old gunman in Dayton, Ohio, killed 9 people, including his sister, and wounded 27 more.

Authorities are still trying to determine the motive for the shooting in Gilroy but investigators discovered he was exploring violent ideologies.

6 year old Steven Romero was shot in the back and died at the Gilroy Garlic Festival (Photo courtesy his father) 

“There’s a whole cadre of extremists whose goal is really about bringing society to its knees. Violence is not just a means to promote an ideology. It’s become an ideology itself,” Brian Levin, director of California State University, San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, told USA Today.

Fredrick Brennan founded the Internet fringe message board 8chan where three mass shooters blamed for killing 74 people this year—including the Gilroy gunman—posted their screeds. He told NBC News that the new owner gives “constant nods and winks to the radical, neo-Nazi part of their user base” where they enjoy infamy. Hours after the El Paso attack, he said, administrators kept the tagline “Embrace infamy” on 8chan’s front page.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 83 hate groups in California.  But keeping track of lone wolf white supremacists and angry young white men radicalized on 8chan and other sites is beyond difficult.

Gilroy is about 54 miles from Modesto where San Jose-based Don Grundmann, head of the National Straight Pride Coalition, and Modesto resident Mylinda Mason, who “manages” the old Tea Party-ish California Republican Assembly for Stanislaus County, want to mount a “straight pride” rally on Aug. 24 in Graceada Park.

The organization’s flyer, bordered with pink, says: “Join us to celebrate heterosexuality, masculinity, feminity, babies – born and unborn – western civilization, our wonderful country, Christianity — Celebrate Life!”

“Essentially it boils down to two religious views of the world,” Grundmann told CBS13, the Sacramento affiliate. “One is Christianity, which is represented by heterosexuality, a culture of life, and its opponent is the LGBT movement, which is represented by an opposing religion and an opposing view of life.”

“We’ve been getting letters, emails, comments, and phone calls all day about it,” said Modesto City Council member Kristi Ah You. “I don’t think we need to give a permit for anything that when you go to the page it talks about whiteness, it talks about western civilization, it talks about being Caucasian. That’s all hate crime stuff to me, that’s not okay.”

Ah You said she supports free speech and first amendment rights, for which the “straight pride” organizers are asking. “I think if we ignored it and let the people do whatever they’re going to do, I think maybe four or five people would show up.”

That was before Matthew Mason, 28, the adopted and estranged gay son of rally organizer Mylinda Mason, alerted the press.

“This isn’t ‘straight pride.’ This is hate pride,” said Matthew Mason told Fox40 in Modesto. “Dog whistling to white supremacy, that is immediately inciting violence. I am afraid of violence happening. I don’t want anyone in my community to be hurt.”

Mylinda Mason said the rally would be a peaceful gathering. “They’re looking to amp it up into something that it’s not,” she told Fox40. “It’s really going to be much more like on the purview of a church service really. It really is just celebrating our beautiful country.” Everyone is welcome, even LGBTQ people, adding “the intolerance doesn’t come from [their] side.”

That’s the cover. Hate mongers no longer need to be slathered in tattoos listening to angry heavy metal bands. As last year’s Frontline/ProPublica series on the new American Nazis shows, the look now is often khaki pants and blue shirt to fit into the mainstream, until they can let down their guard and don masks as do both the national neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, which apparently inspired Samuel Lincoln Woodward, 21, of Newport Beach to murder his former gay Jewish high school classmate Blaze Bernstein. The Orange County-based Rise Above Movement, a white supremacist group, saw four members arrested Oct. 2, 2018 on federal charges for allegedly traveling to Virginia with the intent to incite a riot at the deadly far-right rallies in Charlottesville.

“Inspired by the writings of Hitler and the idea of ‘white jihad,’ members of groups like R.A.M. and Proud Boys don’t need much provocation to become violent. Indeed, members of Atomwaffen Division have been charged in five killings over the past two years,” former Nazi Christian Picciolini wrote in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.  “It is true that the leaders of such groups draw in disillusioned young men who believe the world has sidelined them. But just because their members look familiar to many Americans does not make them less dangerous. Their violence is part of a growing pattern of domestic terrorism and should not be excused as an adolescent blip.”

While Mylinda Mason says the “straight pride” rally will be church-like, the National Straight Pride Coalition website opens with a note to “Dear Citizen” then reads: “The purpose of the California Straight Pride Coalition is to defend the children noted above. This is inclusive of preventing the current and future generations of all races and colors from being destroyed by the inherent malevolence of the Homosexual Movement toward our founding principles below.”

One of those principles describes “Caucasians” as “the biological majority of the historical developers and founders of Western Civilization.”

That’s not a dog-whistle. That’s a clarion call to anti-LGBTQ white supremacists everywhere, including hate group-inspired lone wolfs.

The fear increased when word went out that Grundmann had joined the local chapter of the Proud Boys, designated a California hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center,  and invited the boys to attend the rally.

But the Proud Boys told the Modesto Bee they were not attending and were annoyed that Grundmann had used their name for publicity purposes without permission.

Modesto City Council members got an earful from “dozens of people” Aug. 7, the Modesto Bee reported. Grundmann was booed and got into a shouting match until Mayor Ted Brandvold restored order.

“And audience members howled, cheered and clapped when Grundmann called his group a ‘peaceful, racist organization,’ though he took that comment back, saying he had misspoke,” the Bee reported.

City spokesperson Thomas Reeves told the Los Angeles Blade that the “straight pride” rally was not on the agenda and it is actually up to staff to approve the organization’s application to reserve the Graceada Park amphitheater, Mancini Bowl, for Aug. 24, based on factors such as insurance compliance.

Reeves says the city is “very sensitive to everything that is happening across the country” and will “ensure the safety of our community,” preparing for anything.

Reeves thinks the decision to grant the reservation is imminent.

(UPDATE FRIDAY 7:00PM) The application was denied for use of the park, according to the Modesto Bee, but staff proposed an alternate site—”the plaza by Modesto Center Plaza, the city’s downtown convention, provided organizers submit an application by Tuesday, including proof of insurance.” If the organizers do not make the Tuesday deadline, they could apply again for a later date. 

Nonetheless, many people are still afraid of what might happen if the application is granted.

The message, Democratic Rep. Josh Harder tells the Los Angeles Blade, is “intended to send a signal of bigotry and hatred and discrimination against not just our LGBTQ community, but they also included in their manifesto things like looking for a return to so-called white civilization. And so I think it’s very clear that this event is racist, bigoted, and has absolutely no place in the Central Valley.

“I’m very concerned,” says Harder. “We’ve known for a long time that there are certainly folks who practice hate who live here just like they live anywhere else. One of the people, unfortunately, who was one of the organizers of Charlottesville, lives in Oakdale. And so I think we’re very concerned about where could this lead to. I think what we’ve seen across our country in the last year or two is that hatred and bigotry often lead to violence.”

However, he says, “the valley is one of the most diverse places on the planet. We are a majority minority area. We are a land of immigrants – that is our social and economic fabric. And so the racism and the anti-LGBTQ bigotry that this event represents, I believe is deeply counter to the values that we hold.”

Harder’s victory over his Republican opponent was a slim win and while the district may be bluish, it could also revert to red. The “straight pride” rally may help voters make that decision. Harder’s Republican opponent is Dr. Ted Howze, a local veterinarian, who is strongly supported by the CRA’S Mylinda Mason – and local Proud Boy Travis Hewes.

Dr. Ted Howze, center, with local Proud Boy Travis Hewes, far right with beard.

“While fully supporting the right of free speech and equal rights for all members of our community, I believe that events which solely focus on highlighting differences from one another are unnecessary and potentially damaging to community spirit,” Howze told the Los Angeles Blade in an email. “I choose to focus on the things we all share in common and striving to improve the daily quality of life for Valley residents.”

Asked about the photo of him with a Proud Boy campaign volunteer, Howze said “I’ve taken pictures with thousands of members of the local community and obviously don’t know each individual’s personal convictions. I detest racism, homophobia & xenophobia.”

Josh Harder with a young man Ted Howze identifies as a Proud Boy (Photo via Howze)

Howze noted that Harder had also been recently criticized “for taking a picture with a ‘Proud Boy’ at his election night party. Hopefully the politics of condemnation doesn’t rest on who politicians unknowingly have a picture taken with and personal views we are unaware of?”

Given the painful aftermath of the mass shootings in Gilmore, El Paso and Dayton, Howze’s loyalty to Donald Trump and Mylinda Mason may have greater political ripple effects than dodging the complexities of hate associated with his supporter’s “straight pride.”

Additionally, no one has yet asked Mason’s boss about what he thinks of her hate-inspiring crusade. She identifies herself as a “home teacher at The Patriotic Cottage,”  apparently America’s most patriotic golf club” that supports a non-profit called Folds of Honor.

The charitable organization was founded by Top Gun pilot Major Dan Rooney who had an epiphany about the need to provide “educational scholarships to the children and spouses of military service men and women killed or disabled while serving our great nation. Of the one million-plus dependents adversely affected by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, over 87% do not qualify for federal scholarship assistance,” according to the Folds of Honor website.

Rooney has hosted compassionate conservative President George W. Bush at his golf club to draw attention to the scholarship program. What will other compassionate conservative contributors think when they discover Folds of Honor employs a teacher who is an organizer of hate?

 

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California

Visalia’s city council proclaims October ‘LGBTQ history month’

“Thank you to the council for doing this […] When we started this work five years ago, we didn’t know how we would be received in the city”

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Downtown Visalia, CA (Photo by Devon Jones, City of Visalia Economic Development Manager)

VISALIA, Ca. – In a proclamation this past Monday, the city council paid tribute to The Source LGBTQ+ Center’s work in the Visalia LGBTQ+ community, including Tulare and Kings Counties over the past five years. The council also proclaimed October as LGBTQ+ history month presenting ‘The Source’ a plaque noting the nonprofit’s recent expansion.

“In 5 years, The Source has become the largest LGBT center between Los Angeles and Sacramento,” the plaque reads in part, The Visalia Times-Delta newspaper reported.

“We started with just an idea that we came up with on Main Street – back when it had antique stores,” said Nick Vargas, director of development and cofounder of The Source. “From that idea, other people have joined us and I have been able to do the best work of my life, helping the citizens of Visalia, particularly the LGBTQ youth, those living with HIV, and their families.”

On Saturday, the fifth annual Pride Visalia organized by ‘The Source’ was held at a different time of year and in a brand new location, Valley Strong Ballpark, supported by communications giant T-Mobile. The center’s annual Halloween Gala was also held Saturday night at the Bello Vita Venue. 

“Thank you to the council for doing this, it means a lot to us. When we started this work five years ago, we didn’t know how we would be received in the city,” Vargas said. “It means a lot to be here today, I would love it if you all showed up to PRIDE Visalia… but just knowing we have the support of the council and the city, is a lot.”

On its website, ‘The Source’ specifies that the center’s mission is to “provide spaces within our communities for the LGBT+ population to Learn, Grow, Belong, Transform, Question + Support.”

Visalia, the Tulare County seat, is the gateway to Sequoia National Park, and only forty-one miles south of Fresno located in the conservative San Joaquin Valley region of central California. In Congress, the area, California’s 22nd congressional district, is represented by Republican Devin Nunes, who has been unresponsive to LGBTQ+ concerns, having been labeled anti-LGBTQ+ by the Human Rights Campaign and Equality California.

The Times-Delta also reported that The Source is also hosting its first-ever AIDS Walk to raise awareness as well as funds. The walk is scheduled at 11 a.m. on Oct. 30 on NW 2nd Avenue. 

Pride Visalia 2021 sponsored by T-Mobile:

 

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Los Angeles

Los Angeles City Council bans homeless camps in 54 locations

Sitting, sleeping & storing property near fire hydrants, building entrances, driveways, libraries, parks, elementary schools banned

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LA Homeless Service Authority workers Giovanna Miranda, (L) & Tania Trigueros (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – Setting up or creating encampments by homeless persons in 54 select locations across the city is now banned after the LA City Council voted 12-2 Wednesday to outlaw sitting, sleeping and lying in those places.

Utilizing new laws passed over the summer after contentious and at times acrimonious debate, the council enacted new rules regulating sitting, sleeping and storing property near fire hydrants, building entrances, driveways, libraries, parks, elementary schools and several other locations.

The council also directed city staff to ensure that the homeless were given proper notifications prior to action and that all departments expand staff and make available resources to help those affected by the new ban.

On Wednesday, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced that the VA is going to place more than 500 unhoused veterans living in Los Angeles into permanent housing.

According to McDonough, the efforts will be in two steps, the first to assist approximately 40 veterans living on the street in what is colloquially referred to as the ‘Veteran’s Row’ encampment, located adjacent to the VA campus in Brentwood on San Vincente Boulevard.

That encampment has been highlighted by mayoral candidates visiting it frequently including last week by U.S. Representative Karen Bass, (D) who was accompanied by the VA Secretary.

The next step is move another 500 veterans into permanent or transitional housing by December 31, the VA Secretary said.

In the last census count of homeless people conducted by the County of Los Angeles, of the nearly 66,000 people experiencing homelessness, roughly 3,900 are homeless veterans.

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Los Angeles

LA City Council votes to suspend Ridley-Thomas over corruption charges

The 11-to-3 vote to suspend vote came two days after Ridley-Thomas announced that he would “step back” from his duties

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Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas speaking at a press conference (Blade file screenshot photo)

LOS ANGELES – The city council voted Wednesday to suspend Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, 66, who was was indicted a week ago by a federal grand jury on 20 federal counts of conspiracy, bribery, mail and wire fraud.

The 11-to-3 vote to suspend vote came two days after Ridley-Thomas announced that he would “step back” from participation in City Council meetings and committees. Ridley-Thomas, who has denied any wrongdoing, has said he will not resign and will fight the federal charges against him, KTLA and the Los Angeles Times reported.

The federal grand jury’s indictment alleged that Ridley-Thomas took bribes from a former dean at the University of Southern California, (USC) when he was a member of the County Board of Supervisors.

In a letter sent to fellow councilmembers Monday, he indicated that he would step back from his duties but he declined to resign from his seat. He said that he planned to fight the “outrageous allegations” and would resume participation on the legislative body “at the earliest appropriate time.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that in exchange for the payoffs, Ridley-Thomas allegedly supported awarding county contracts worth millions of dollars to USC. 

In the indictment Ridley-Thomas is charged with conspiring with Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, then dean of USC’s School of Social Work, to steer county money to the university in return for admitting his son Sebastian into graduate school with a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship, the Times reported.

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