Many people had no clue that Thursday was Flag Day so members of the California Valley Patriots reminded them by prominently displaying assorted flags from atop the Keyes Road overpass directly above the southbound lanes of Highway 99.
The group received a consistent number of honks from truckers and passenger cars during the evening commute hours.
“Today is Flag Day and we’re out here celebrating our flag,” explained Turlock resident Daniel Fagundes, president of the California Valley Patriots, a local group whose membership has spread across the country to approximately 2,200.
The group chose the Keyes Road overpass because it is one of the most recently built with a wider span than normal to accommodate parking. Someone called authorities to complain about their presence just prior to 5:30 p.m.
“He (officer) showed up, parked right here, we talked to him and told him who we are and what we’re doing and he said okay,” said Fagundes.
“Parking is not illegal here,” said Vice President Lew Conley, who organized the event. “If you look up and down the freeway there’s no other overpass you can park on. I’ve already researched it.”
Before 6 p.m. about 16 people had assembled on the north side of the overpass and attached a variety of flags to the chain-link cage above the pedestrian sidewalk. Several American flags were displayed along with the 1775 Gadsden or “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, the POW flag, the Republican Party flag, U.S. Army flag, the “Come and Take It” flag and the USA Thin Blue Line police flag.
Conley was the first to show up at 4 p.m. The event was scheduled to go from 5 to 7 p.m. He expressed dismay at how few people knew or acknowledged it was Flag Day.
“These people have no idea why we’re out here,” said Conley. “The Highway Patrol already came by and gave us his blessing.”
“We’re a very law-abiding group,” added Fagundes. “We work with the police. We’ve done security at the Capitol.”
Conley said his group frequently does “flag runs all over the place.”
“We leave Turlock. We’ll go to like Ripon and we’ll have a potluck there for people that come. We’ve been to Columbia, Oakdale, Knights Ferry. We’re getting ready to meet another group up in Sacramento on Folsom Lake coming up on the 23rd.”
The group is planning to stage a Patriot Day gathering at Woodward Reservoir outside of Oakdale which should attract groups from all over the state.
While atop the bridge, members talked politics, sharing their disdain for a proposal to split California in three parts which Fagundes said would lump Stanislaus County with San Francisco and only result in “more Democrats” in the Congress.
“Our group is based on the Second Amendment,” explained Fagundes. “In 2016 we did our first rally on McHenry and had over 500 people there. We’ve had a second one, we’ve done marches, we’re a very active group.”
He said many on the left side of the political spectrum label his group as Nazis or racists but it’s not true. He pointed to the mission statement on the reverse side of his business card which states: “We are a group of California patriots devoted to upholding our constitutional rights. We strive to promote good and just government at all levels by educating our fellow American families. We welcome all, as we unite together to protect our inalienable rights.”
Conley said “we’re not a bunch of gun-toting crazies” and offered this: “It’s kind of hard to say we’re racist because there’s not a race that we don’t have as members.”
California Valley Patriots have done a number of community service projects, such as rounding up and delivering donations for victims of the summer of 2017 Detwiler Fire. They also took six vehicles filled with supplies and gave $1,000 to relief efforts during the Santa Rosa Fire. They also drove relief supplies to flood victims in Texas.
“So we’re out to make a positive difference,” said Fagundes. “We’re out to get people off the couch. If you’re going to bitch then you need to get involved. But if you ain’t going to get involved, shut your trap. We just love our country and want to take it for our kids and grandkids.”
Oscar Luna showed up at the event with his wife Jamie and young son Christian.
“He’s been a patriot since he was a little boy,” said Luna. “We love this country.”
Fagundes and Conley conducted a flag salute on the overpass – an event which is common for his group.
California Valley Patriots has a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/californiavalleypatriots/