A virtual meeting of the Ogden City Diversity Commission had been in session for about an hour, when suddenly about a dozen people joined and began yelling racial slurs, posting violent threats in the chat and displaying pornographic images.
“I sat there in shock as my colleagues — my friends — were bombarded with racist language directed at them by complete strangers,” Commission Chair Taylor Knuth-Bishop wrote in a Facebook post.
Knuth-Bishop shared a screenshot showing one of the trolls, who appeared to be a juvenile male performing a Nazi salute.
Ogden Police are currently investigating the event, which came just days after the Ogden City Council and Mayor Mike Caldwell signed a joint resolution condemning xenophobia in the city.
Cases of such intrusions, sometimes called “zoombombing” are on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic, including from white supremacist groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports the number of daily Zoom users has jumped from 10 million in December to 200 million in March as more people work from home to avoid spreading COVID-19. Racist groups try to exert cultural influence by exploiting technological vulnerabilities to earn widespread attention.
Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt said in a news conference Thursday that his department was working with the FBI to determine whether a hate crime had occurred. Other possible charges could include dealing in material harmful to a child due to the shared pornographic images.
The police department has also sent a search warrant to Zoom to find any data that might determine the trolls’ identity.
“We do have screenshots,” Watt said. “Since they injected themselves in a public meeting, they made their persons public. If we have to, we’ll put those photographs out and see if the greater community if not the country can help us identify who they are.”
Watt said he did not know whether any of the trolls were from Ogden. He also did not know whether the group was trying to amplify a specific racist message, but noted the zoombombing was “coordinated.”
Moving forward, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said all public virtual meetings will be password protected.
“It’s unfortunate because it takes the voice of the public away,” Caldwell said at the news conference. “It makes it a bit more difficult. Some people are tech challenged and don’t know how to do that.”
Note 2:30 p.m. Thursday, May 14: This story was updated to include information from a news conference.
This content was originally published here.