Dozens of “white supremacists and Nazis” allegedly hijacked an online meeting held by Penn State University’s Black Caucus – targeting participants with racial and homophobic slurs while exposing themselves, the group said.
The student organization said in an open letter that its Wednesday meeting during the university’s virtual Spring Involvement Fair was taken over by 51 “unwanted users” described as white supremacists and Nazis who ambushed the event by targeting three executive board members.
“The chat was filled with anti-Semitic and white supremacist language and symbols,” according to the letter, which was released Friday. “Several users screamed into their microphones, played loud music or exposed themselves in a sexual manner.”
Some of the vile, uninvited participants had swastikas set as their virtual backgrounds, while others yelled “Black lives don’t matter,” the Centre Daily Times reported.
One Zoom-bomber also pulled down his pants and mooned the caucus during the online attack that reportedly lasted up to 15 minutes.
Those responsible for “traumatic and horrific” attack were removed from the Zoom call and Black Caucus members immediately contacted university administration, the student organization said.
“While we are not surprised by this disgusting behavior, we are deeply saddened and disappointed that this occurred,” the letter continued. “Communities that have been historically pushed to the margins have fought to be in inclusive environments that are safe and welcoming.”
Black Caucus president Nyla Holland told the newspaper that she reported the incident to university officials, who have in turn provided counseling and other services.
“What happened Wednesday didn’t occur in a vacuum; it’s part of a larger societal issue where hate is being spewed, especially in online areas,” she said. “It’s really difficult to imagine and endure this kind of attack in 2021.”
The dual senior-graduate student added Sunday, “We’re doing well, considering the circumstances.”
Penn State president Eric Barron characterized the incident Saturday as “beyond disgusting” and an unfortunate reminder that more work must be done to end racism, particularly on college campuses.
“The vile language, images and vulgar content that are characteristics of these coordinated online attacks reflect broader social challenges and ongoing problems within our community and our nation at large,” Barron said in a statement.
The meeting was among several recent “Zoom bombings” of various virtual university events and lectures, Barron said, but he did not elaborate. An investigation into Wednesday’s incident is underway, he said.
Holland, meanwhile, is calling on the university to make its campus — the epicenter of central Pennsylvania’s so-called “Happy Valley” — more inclusive to students of color, suggesting an action plan be created to make that a reality.
“I often hear this quote that Happy Valley is not happy for black people, and it rings true in a lot of ways,” she told the Centre Daily Times. “And there’s work that needs to be done, I think, in every sector to make that false.”
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