Online event organized by racialized students at the University of Waterloo hijacked by people spewing hateful slurs
By Liz Monteiro
Thu., Jan. 28, 2021
WATERLOO — An online event organized by a racialized student group from the University of Waterloo was hijacked by people hurling racial slurs, attempting to take over a Zoom session by repeatedly writing “white power” in the chat group.
“We can’t emphasize how explicit and how violent it was,” said Hanan Thibeh, a fourth-year UW student, who along with Ayesha Masud, run the student-led service known as Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity.
Earlier this week, the student group held a webinar on Tuesday which featured professors, activists and students addressing the environment and racism.
About 15 minutes into the event, the event was “Zoom-bombed,” a term used to describe when people take over digital meetings and post disturbing materials.
Thibeh said white supremacists took over the session and repeatedly used the N-word and wrote white power. There were also swastikas.
“They seemed to delight in the reaction,” said Thibeh of Kitchener.
Thibeh and Masud, who speak openly about anti-Black racism on campus and getting it addressed, say they were not shocked by the overt racist behaviour but definitely shaken.
“It was such a violent attack,” Thibeh said. “These individuals had a plan.”
“It was a traumatic event for our team,” she said.
Both students say they have received pushback since they and other students started the advocacy group on campus in 2019.
“We as activists are placed on the front lines of trauma,” Thibeh said.
A similar hijacking of a Zoom session happened last week at Dalhousie University in Halifax. An online social event organized by Black students was Zoom-bombed by people hurling racial and homophobic slurs.
Locally, an artist from New Hamburg had a Zoom chat hijacked when strangers shared offensive material, posting photos of lynch mobs and their victims.
The day after the Waterloo event, UW president Feridun Hamdullahpur said on Twitter that he “condemns the violent display of anti-Black racism.”
“This was an unacceptable act of violence that no one should experience,” he said.
Hamdullahpur said the university is looking into the matter and said the school will take action if someone from the university is responsible.
Both students say they want to see more action from the university. They say there is a lack of resources for Indigenous and racialized students on campus.
GET THE LATEST IN YOUR INBOX
“It is nice-sounding commitments but there is no follow through,” Masud said.
Thibeh said the hijacking of the event shows “how white supremacy impacts our society.”
“It’s very sad we have to experience Zoom-bombing for people to say ‘you are on to something,’” she said.