Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Maine City Council Zoom Gathering Marred by Antisemitic Disruptions

The Hallowell City Council meeting on Sept. 11, which began with a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, was tainted by antisemitic, homophobic and racist comments spouted by individuals who joined in remotely.

At around 6:05 p.m., after the meeting had started, a person in attendance via Zoom requested to speak during the time designated for residents to offer comments about issues not listed on the agenda. He then unleashed a diatribe, spewing conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks and antisemitic comments.

Officials muted and removed the person from the meeting immediately only for another person on the call to join in, shouting racist slurs and then hurling expletives at ex-mayor and former state Rep. Charlotte Warren, who was also in attendance.

Both individuals were using fake names while in the meeting. Following the commotion that went on for about a minute, officials shut down the remote meeting and decided to adjourn it indefinitely.

“It was absolutely disgusting,” said City Manager Gary Lamb. “There is no call for it in this country, in this state or in this city.”

The fact that Warren was called out by name suggested that the perpetrators could be Hallowell residents, but nothing concrete is known yet, said Lamb.

Hallowell police Chief Chris Lewis said the incident seemed similar to what other municipalities, including South Portland and Biddeford, have experienced in the recent past.

“My gut feeling is it’s not a targeted incident. It’s just an ugly act with the purpose of disrupting the municipal process by attacking people’s feelings and emotions, unfortunately,” said Lewis, adding that his department will be contacting the other targeted municipalities to compare notes and discuss the incidents.

The police department has sent a notification to Zoom to add the video recording of the meeting as a form of evidence and seek assistance on how to proceed further. Police are also working to track down the IP addresses of the perpetrators.

Other city councils have been dealing with similar incidents of so-called Zoom bombing, where people join remotely under fake names and spew hate speech toward officials. Just last week, during a City Council meeting in Portland, Councilors Andrew Zarro and April Fournier were similarly targeted.

The rise of such incidents is part of a larger trend transpiring in Maine, with hate groups becoming more active and hate speech being dished out under the garb of free speech.

Last month, Augusta witnessed a congregation of neo-Nazis at the steps of the State House and outside the governor’s residence. Earlier this year, in April, two dozen men walked in Portland, clad in uniforms, giving Nazi salutes and shouting racist and homophobic slurs.

Hate crimes, too, have increased. According to FBI data, Maine recorded 83 hate crimes in 2020 and 75 such incidents in 2021; three times more than in 2019.

When asked whether incidents like these will discourage remote meetings, Lamb added that the council is not planning on curbing accessibility for residents because of a few rotten apples.

Instead, there will be changes made to the process of participation, like adding a remote waiting room before joining in on meetings. Residents might also be asked to request meeting invitations via email, giving officials a chance to confirm their identities before allowing them to join.

The investigation into the incident is ongoing.

“If anyone has any knowledge of who interrupted the City Council meeting, they should call the Hallowell Police Department,” urged Lamb.

Source: https://www.sunjournal.com/2023/09/12/anonymous-zoom-callers-harass-hallowell-officials-unleash-hateful-rants-during-council-meeting/