Downtown restaurant diners and those sipping lattes outside Tully's Plaza during the Labor Day weekend were met with chants from a religious group toting signs and speaking out against homosexuality.
The demonstration from a handful of people Saturday, while the weekly Farmers' Market was going on, ruined what should have been an enjoyable experience, according to Pleasanton resident Natascha Thomson, who was downtown eating lunch with her husband.
"Independent from our opinions on the views displayed by this group, the shouting was so loud and continuous that we abandoned our plans to have coffee downtown or do any shopping," she said.
Susie Sage, also downtown Saturday with her children, got a little closer of an encounter than she would have liked.
"When I approached one of the 'preachers,' he told me I would go to hell," she said.
"A couple of guys holding hands walked past the loudest and most obnoxious of the 'preachers' and kissed each other right in front of him, which caused applause and whooping from onlookers, suggesting that most people felt the same as I did," she added. "The worst of it was that these people frightened the kids including my own by their shouting and use of language. I'm all for free speech but not when it is aimed at a minority group and is being used to incite hatred."
Thomson and Sage said while Pleasanton police officers were posted near the group, they monitored the scene but didn't do anything.
Pleasanton Police Lt. Mike Elerick said officers can only monitor demonstrations such as these because they aren't breaking any laws.
"It's very difficult for us," Elerick said. "In general, unfortunately, there are no laws being violated. It's freedom of speech. Unless they break the law with an assault, battery or some other violation, there's little we can do."
Demonstrations about political or religious issues aren't that uncommon downtown, a gathering place that is certain to get a high volume of people's attention. But usually, Elerick said the groups aren't as vocal as the one described by some residents Saturday.
"We have another group, Pleasantonians 4 Peace, that meets in front of the Museum On Main," Elerick said. "They practice their freedom of speech, but in a very peaceful, non-threatening way."
Since law enforcement's response is to be objective and neutral, officers' hands are tied, and residents often don't realize that it's the group's constitutional right to speak their minds, Elerick said.
Police are not usually made aware of a demonstration such as last weekend's, Elerick said, but officers do monitor these types of groups' websites to see when they're holding events as well as take pictures and videotape in case the situation were to escalate and lead to arrests. He added that the groups are usually comprised of members who live outside of Pleasanton.
Elerick said he doesn't see an increase in these events, and said residents who are upset with the demonstrations could look to expressing their freedom of speech by forming a peaceful counter-demonstration.