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Iowa virtual town hall disrupted by violent threats from racists

An online event hosted by Iowa lawmakers was disrupted by hateful trolls shouting racial slurs and threats of violence – marking the second time in as many weeks that black elected officials were targeted, according to reports.

State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, tweeted Saturday that “cowards” called him a racial epithet during a monthly town hall meeting on Zoom with other legislators, including Rep. Marti Anderson, before they were cut off.

“Marti disconnected the callers,” Abdul-Samad tweeted. “The meeting continued. We must not give up, we must stop hate with love & expose ignorance.”

Abdul-Samad told the Des Moines Register the trolls threatened to “kill all” black people during the “very disturbing incident, but lawmakers decided to continue the meeting to not allow the planned disruption to be successful.

“The only way that we can stop these individuals that are trying to perpetuate this hate is that we step up as a community and [by] working together and doing everything in our power to educate people around us,” Abdul-Samad said Monday.

Anderson, D-Des Moines, said the callers – who did not show their faces or reveal their identities – yelled “white power” during the interruption and repeatedly lobbed racial slurs. They also called her the “B word,” Abdul-Samad tweeted.

Anderson, who is white, told the Register she thinks the monthly town hall was targeted five separate times due to Abdul-Samad’s participation on the call.

State Rep. Marti Anderson
State Rep. Marti Anderson
AP

“I was determined to finish this meeting with our constituents,” Anderson said. “We don’t get to visit as much with our constituents anymore because of COVID.”

The incident was reported to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s cybercrime unit. About 60 people were on the call at the time, Anderson said.

Saturday’s disruption marked the second time in as many weekends that a virtual event hosted by Iowa lawmakers was marred by racial slurs, the newspaper reported.

A Feb. 7 call held by the Iowa Democratic Black Caucus was also targeted by unwanted guests who yelled profanities, hateful slurs and death threats, according to caucus chair Al Womble.

“It was pretty disgusting, disgraceful and offensive,” Womble told the newspaper. “And this really is violence against the black community. Making death threats, yelling [racial slurs], saying ‘We’re going to come get you,’ things like that. Those are all things, to me, that I take pretty seriously.”




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