Compiled by Mike Rhodes
(Editor’s note: The names of individuals quoted in this article have been changed to protect their privacy and safety.]
The critical input by community members working to present a fair equity map (ending gerrymandering) was disrupted by right-wing activists, people with the same political orientation that brought us the Jan. 6 Insurrection. Disruptions of public meetings have become more frequent, with a student being interrupted and booed at a Clovis Unified School District meeting.
Right-wing thugs showed up at a Fresno City Council member’s home (which turned into a physical altercation), and they frequently show up at Save the Tower protests to intimidate and threaten participants.
Below are several statements from participants at the Oct. 21 redistricting hearing held at the Fresno County Health and Wellness Center.
“We arrived at the location and were greeted by people insulting us and saying that we were socialists and that we needed to take off our shirts,” stated Lucia.
“They also yelled that for the next meeting they were going to wear shirts for Trump, and a woman physically grabbed my friend by the t-shirt saying she was a socialist.
“I told the security guard what was happening, but he did not do anything because he did not see the camera. I think there is a camera, and you can see that she was pulled by the shirt.”
Sofia felt scared and worried about her safety. She was carrying her daughters. “This happened outside while we were waiting in the line to enter. When we entered, a lady…kept insulting us and mocking and recording. She would especially do this to me. She pointed to me and laughed while recording.
“The community felt attacked and scared because no one defended us, and because while we were inside they let her continue attacking us, giving her the opportunity to speak many times just to attack the community.
“During the meeting, I was with a group of women,” said Isabella. “Two of them were mothers who had come with their children. These women told me that they were concerned for the safety of their children.
“A lady…was continually harassing us. Staring at us, giving us mean looks, mocking anything that we said. After continually harassing us, the two women went home with their children. I fear that this level of intimidation and harassment will scare them from ever returning to a public hearing to give public input and scare others away too.”
At the commission hearing, Martina, a community organizer, said that she “encountered a group of individuals who continuously insulted and harassed the group of people I came with. The first incident occurred when we came in and a woman…pointed and repetitively shouted. ‘Communist, communist, get out of here you communist.’
“She was also told by the security guard to not argue with the people outside of the meeting but did not listen. The environment felt very hostile, and we did not feel safe. The group of people who were attacking us intimidated many of the people who attended with me to the point they had to walk out and did not want to return.
“[My colleague] stated, ‘I felt nervous, uncomfortable; they stared us down, and I just wanted to leave.’ Overall, it was intimidating to those who wanted to participate in the process.”
“Persons were being videotaped in one-on-one and group conversations without their permission,” noted Steven. “Attendees speaking at a public meeting can expect to be part of the video for the meeting, but one’s private communications even at a public meeting should not be videotaped. That is intrusive and intimidating.
“[Moreover,] the translator hired by NDC [National Demographics Corporation] (or staff) was visibly showing support for one of the maps and communicated throughout the meeting with individuals supporting that particular map.”
“I literally felt bullied when I spoke,” stated Alejandro. “Josh Fulfer [who operates a vlog called Oreo Express] was there to provoke. We have a history of him calling our group racial slurs to provoke a reaction.
“It was unfair how I was treated at the podium, and a woman…interrupted me repeatedly with off-topic obscenities. I was the one the security approached with pressure from their mob.
“Their mob approach completely made that meeting undemocratic. The commissioners overwhelmingly wanted to hear from one side and not the other, leaving the door open for bullying tactics.”
According to Jennifer, “Extreme right-wing agitator Josh ‘Oreo Express’ Fulfer likes to claim to be media, but in reality, he uses his camera to target people exercising their rights regarding issues that he and his audience are against.
“I first encountered Fulfer over nine months ago regarding the Save the Tower zoning demonstrations in Fresno. From the very first, he used his camera to harass, demean and spread lies about people for the entertainment of his audience.
“He soon graduated to identifying demonstrators—including myself—by name, zooming in so his audience could identify them. He has often mentioned a ‘database’ of targets his ‘patriot’ friends keep to doxx demonstrators.
“His heckling and harassment are intended to create stress and anxiety among his targets as his audience shifts the harassment online and into other venues.
“He has multiple times named me on his feeds including my place of employment. He has lied about my motivations and my character.
“As a direct result of Fulfer’s targeting me, his followers and connections have harassed me in public beyond the protests and made demeaning and slanderous comments about me online. One even went so far as to have several of her friends call my employer directly to complain about my activism in my neighborhood and to try to have me fired.
“These people have direct ties to Joshua Fulfer and his activities of intimidation and harassment online and in person.”
The Community Alliance has more testimonials by attendees at this meeting, and they will all be posted on our website (www.fresnoalliance.com).
Mike Rhodes is a writer for the Community Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. Contact him at email@example.com.