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FRESNO—The Fresno County Democratic Party strongly condemns the Fresno State College Republicans decision to host far-right Internet personality Tyler Russell. The Canadian YouTuber and livestreamer is a self-styled leading voice of the “Canada First” movement.

Among his supporters, the terms “Canada First” and “America First” are used interchangeably, a flub that sweeps away the political theater Russell refers to as his “optics” to expose the White supremacy underneath.

The Fresno State College Republicans had previously booked Russell for a virtual event in August. However, after posted to Twitter expressing their horror at the union, the Fresno State club canceled the event on the day it was scheduled.

The Fresno State College Republicans did not cite any reasoning at the time. Looking back, it is clear all they feared was the visibility, not Russell’s actual messages of cultural supremacy and intolerance. Rebooking him after outside attention waned is the proof.

The College Republicans knew exactly what they were getting with Russell. During a 2020 protest in Ottawa, amid a mixture of flags of Canada, Donald Trump and the Confederate Army, Russell delivered the speech that helped secure his right-wing credentials.

On that day he was a small part of the much larger protest against any potential government efforts to recognize, as the Idle No More movement phrased it, “all of the lives lost to the Canadian State¾Indigenous lives, Black Lives, Migrant lives, Women and Trans and 2 Spirit lives¾all of the relatives that we have lost.”

In his speech, Russell instead mourned the fate of the Proud Boys, a recognized hate group in Canada. He announced that to be called racist was a badge of honor.

Russell has since bragged on his online forum about infiltrating a Palestinian solidarity rally with the goal of harassing Jewish counter protesters and inciting greater conflict between the groups.

The Unabomber’s manifesto is suggested reading for young joiners of Russell’s movement. On his moderated chat forum for his supporters, voiced hesitation that some more extreme rhetoric could be interpreted as a call to violence is countermanded by the man himself. Russell responded, “No. We will do whatever it takes to win.”

The Fresno State College Republicans have begun to develop a concerning pattern of behavior. In August, the club was also criticizing veterans and calling most military service members “glorified DMV employees.”

This, combined with two separate invitations to Russell, shows a troubling trend in Fresno’s Republican landscape. We like to think that as a city we have moved on from the years when Fresno State’s first gay pride parade was met with drive-by protests from Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia, but perhaps, as Russell might phrase it, only the “optics” have changed.