FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 25, 2021
Contact: Kirstin Snow, email@example.com
Harrisburg, PA: Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center, today issued the following information about a “Zoom-bombing” that occurred earlier this month.
Background: On Sunday, February 7, participants in a digital meeting on judicial gerrymandering that was organized and hosted by the PA-5 Indivisible Collaborative, a coalition of Delaware County grassroots advocacy groups, and featuring state Senator Tim Kearney (District 26, Delaware County) and Kadida Kenner, director of campaigns for the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) and head of PBPC’s Why Courts Matter–PA, both projects of the Keystone Research Center (KRC), were the victims of a hateful and racist “Zoom-bombing.” With the full support of KRC and its board of directors, Kenner and the organizers of the meeting have referred the matter to the police, and it has now been turned over to the district attorney of Delaware County for investigation after a referral by the Susquehanna Township Police, where a report was initially filed. As an organization committed to economic and racial justice, KRC recognizes its moral obligation to educate the public about this incident and to pursue criminal action to make the perpetrators accountable for their actions.
The meeting began at 2 pm. At the start of the meeting, Kenner began a presentation, initially without incident. When Senator Kearney arrived, Kenner stopped her presentation and gave him the floor. When she did, a group of about five “Zoom-bombers” began shouting down the senator, repeatedly telling him, using profanity, to shut up. As the person most experienced with Zoom, Kenner then requested that the organizers make her the Zoom meeting host so that she could eject them from the meeting. This hand-off took some time, during which the perpetrators began targeting Kenner, a Black woman, by drawing an obscene image and racially charged language on the screen. The perpetrators also called Kenner a vile racist epithet approximately 25 times. After a few minutes, Kenner was able to eject all of the perpetrators. A portion of the meeting was captured on video and by screenshots and was witnessed by about 50 people.
“The hateful event that took place was shocking, but is also a trend,” Kenner said, “There’s no place in our society for any hateful and intimidating attacks by cyber bullies that I and one other Black woman had to endure, coincidentally around a presentation about voter disenfranchisement, and coinciding with Black History Month. This is not an isolated event: similar events have been reported recently with Springfield Township elementary school students and a Black Caucus meeting organized by Penn State students.”
Senator Tim Kearney said, “This act of racism and intimidation has no place in our community, and I am glad the Delaware County district attorney is investigating the matter. Neither Kadida Kenner nor any Black person should have to face this type of behavior. Sadly, these problems extend beyond any single person or incident. We must meet racism with justice and hate with love. I stand with Kadida, and I am committed to ensuring our society treats the Black community with dignity and respect.”
Bonnie Hallam, a leader in the PA-5 Indivisible Collaborative whose Zoom account was bombed, said, “The PA District 5 Indivisible Collaborative is deeply saddened and fiercely angry about the Zoom-bombers’ attempt to shut down our meeting by their racist and sexist intrusion. We are Indivisible because we believe in bringing people together over issues that widen the circle, broaden the discourse and unite people around values of caring and justice. This was an affront to all that we believe and stand for and we are ready to do what we need to do to hold the hackers responsible for this hateful cybercrime.”
While Zoom has been notified of the incident by both Kenner and Hallam at least once, they have received no formal response from the company. Later today, the Keystone Research Center will conduct an internal staff training to equip its entire team with the technical skills needed to reduce the chance of “Zoom-bombings” and to deal with them expeditiously if they occur. Our goal is to upgrade our level of protection in all future meetings in which KRC staff participate, including those hosted by other organizations.