Montreal

West Island Black Community Association reeling after Zoom meeting hijacked by people yelling the N-word

Meant to be a safe space for some of Montreal's Black community and allies, the West Island Black Community Association is reeling after having their annual general meeting hijacked by unknown people shouting the N-word.

Chairperson calls the racist disruption an 'attack in your own home'

Kemba Mitchell, the chairperson of the West Island Black Community Association, says she's in shock after the organization's annual meeting was hijacked by people yelling the N-word. (CBC)

The West Island Black Community Association's is calling on police to investigate after their annual meeting was hijacked by a group of young people yelling the N-word and other racist slurs.

The meeting, held via Zoom on Friday night, was meant as a chance for the organization to share its accomplishments and its goals for the coming year. Instead, it left members reeling.

"There was a series of voices yelling the N-word, saying inappropriate things about Black people. At that point we realized, we're being hacked and this is an assault on our community," said WIBCA chairperson Kemba Mitchell.

A few minutes into the meeting, the presentation screen went black and then a number of young voices starting yelling racial slurs.

At one point, the face of a young boy wearing a pink balaclava appeared. At that point the moderator muted everybody and kicked the individuals out of the Zoom meeting.

"The Black community has been subjected to overt racism, systemic racism. It's nothing new but at that moment, it felt like you were being attacked in your own home," said Mitchell.

'Zoom-bombing' attacks

The hijack of the meeting is now known as Zoom-bombing, when individuals interrupt and cause a disturbance during a Zoom video call.

"They really are just out there looking all the time for things they can disrupt," says Rene Ritchie, an independent tech analyst.

"Some of it is completely happenstance, it's like a drive-by zoom bombing. And then you have people who, for whatever reason, have a different agenda than the host of the meeting and want to disrupt everything."

Fo Niemi, the executive director of Montreal's Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), says Zoom-bombing to hurl racist slurs is becoming more and more common.

"During the year, we've heard of accounts of many Jewish organizations and religious services being disrupted by anti-Semitic slurs by individuals who just came in uninvited," Niemi said.

"It should be reported to the police because it's a kind of violation of privacy. It's a kind of intrusion and intimidation, it's a form of online hate and that should be more and more documented and reported."

Mitchell has filed a police report about the incident.

"This is a traumatic incident and it just lets us know, there's a lot of work to be done, a lot of work to be done."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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