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Out-of-town conservative group draws in large crowd at Redlands City Council meeting

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Madison Aument
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A group of people watching the meeting on a livestream provided by the city of Redlands. Attendees were forced to watch from outside City Hall because the chambers reached maximum capacity.

At least 200 activists and residents attended the Redlands City Council meeting on Tuesday evening to protest the presence of a conservative group known as Gays Against Groomers. A local left-leaning group called Safe Redlands Schools called for volunteers to be a counter-presence to Gays Against Groomers.

Gays Against Groomers is a group of conservative gay people who believe that children should not have access to gender-affirming care.

“My fear is, is a lot of people like myself, that grew up just like me, are going to fall into the hands of people thinking that it is okay to tell a child that you were born in the wrong body simply because you would like things that aren't generally that are not typically associated with your gender at birth,” said Frank Rodriguez, who serves as the California chapter head of Gays Against Groomers.

The group first came to Redlands to protest a local drag event that was mentioned by a Redlands’ public school Instagram account. The event was not school-sponsored.

Rodriguez said he expected his group to remain peaceful. Still, Safe Redlands Schools had volunteers to escort people to-and-from their cars as a safety precaution. The Redlands Police Department also had several officers at each entry point to the council chambers.

In November, the city council passed a proclamation in honor of Trans’ Day of Remembrance. The proclamation sparked further outrage among conservative groups in the city.

After the proclamation, Gays Against Groomers announced they would attend the Dec. 6 Redlands City Council meeting after a video circulated of Councilmember Jenna Guzman-Lowery condemning a public commenter for making anti-LGBTQ remarks.

Safe Redlands Schools supporters were frustrated that an out-of-town group was coming to Redlands.

“They want the rest of the city to bend to their extremist views, and they bring people from outside of the city,” said Felipe Albertao, an organizer with Safe Redlands Schools.

Dozens of people were forced to wait outside to make comments due to the capacity limits of the chambers.

Tensions were high in the council chambers during the public comment period, which lasted almost 3 hours.

A verbal argument arose at one point and Mayor Paul Barich had to call for order.

“Please remind you that everyone gets their three minutes. Emotions are high but please keep to yourself and we'll get through this and everyone will be heard,” said Barich.

Safe Redlands Schools asked their supporters not to engage with Gays Against Groomers. Trisha Keeling, another Safe Redlands Schools organizer, said at the October school board meeting arguing between the groups got out of hand. Keeling said they felt like Gays Against Groomers was trying to get a rise out of their group.

“Before the large crowd came, they came and were trying to engage me and another organizer and getting in our faces, but we were not giving them what they wanted. And I think that's a really important aspect of what we're doing differently tonight is we're not giving them what they want, hoping they don't come back,” said Keeling.

After Gays Against Groomers made their final public comments, they left the chambers. Outside Frank Rodriguez began speaking to those still waiting outside.

“The events that are going to happen in Redlands from here on forward, because I promise you don't want to hear oh, they're gonna be big, they're going to be massive. I see parades, trying to end the mutilation of children marching all up and down Redlands for months to come,” said Rodriguez.

Keeling reminded Safe Redlands Schools supporters that they were not supposed to engage with Gays Against Groomers. Gays Against Groomers eventually left, but said they would come back to Redlands in the future.