After a Hall County Democratic Party virtual meeting was interrupted by hackers targeting a U.S. Senate candidate, Georgia Democrats are criticizing the hackers’ racist messages and calling for unity.
The local Democrats hosted a Zoom meeting the evening of Monday, Aug. 24, with U.S. Senate candidate the Rev. Raphael Warnock. However, the meeting was hacked, with people entering the meeting with racist slurs and pornographic content.
In a statement, the Hall County Democratic Party called the hacking a “disgusting display of the hatred aimed at Rev. Warnock and others who fight for a fair and equitable society.”
“For those of us who have rarely encountered such abusive messages before, let this be a wake-up call for us to fight back the negative forces out to destroy all that is best about America,” Chairman Kim Copeland and Secretary Denise Lee posted on the local party’s Facebook page. “If nothing else, this incident tells us how important it is for us to openly oppose such expressions of hatred.”
The local party will increase security at future virtual meetings, requiring members to do a few security checks before logging on, according to the statement.
Copeland said about 30 to 40 people were already in the meeting to hear Warnock speak before the hackers arrived. As Copeland was introducing Warnock, someone posted the N-word about 30 times in the comments section on Zoom, Copeland said.
“I was a little taken aback, as you can imagine,” Copeland said. “We’ve never had a problem with anything like that.”
Copeland said about 20 to 30 hackers joined the meeting. He said he saw pornographic content and the image of a swastika displayed. As people would be kicked out of the meeting, they would rejoin under a different name, sometimes using the name of one of the local party’s officers, Copeland said. He was able to add a waiting room to the Zoom meeting to prevent new people from joining.
“It was way too coordinated to be just one” hacker, Copeland said, but who organized the interruption is still unclear.
Warnock also addressed the hacking in a statement.
Tonight a virtual event I attended was targeted by hackers.— Reverend Raphael Warnock (@ReverendWarnock) August 25, 2020
A hateful few won’t stop us from going everywhere and speaking to everyone. It is more important than ever to hear each other out - that’s what I’ll do in the Senate. Thank you @HallCountyDem for staying in the fight.
“A hateful few won’t stop us from going everywhere and speaking to everyone,” he posted on Twitter. “It is more important than ever to hear each other out - that’s what I’ll do in the Senate.”
The Democratic Party of Georgia condemned the hackers and called for people from all parties to engage in respectful debate.
“There is no place for hatred and bigotry in our politics, yet once again in this campaign season, we are seeing a Black candidate come under racist attacks meant to intimidate and shut down his platform,” Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Director Scott Hogan said in a statement. “This must not and will not be tolerated.”
Leigh Miller attended Monday’s virtual meeting. She said members of the local party had been looking forward to hearing from Warnock and were surprised by the interruptions.
“You know that hate is in the world, but if you don’t see it up-close every day, it’s just shocking when you see it that way,” Miller said.
She said the disruption was “very strange and off-putting.”
“To see it in such a coordinated manner and with such effort behind it, it wasn’t just one troll dropping in and dropping the N-word and getting off,” Miller said. “It was just very coordinated and actionable, and a group of people, whoever they may be, spent time to do this.”
Copeland said Warnock will be invited back to address Hall County Democrats later.