By Matthew Rodriguez

Hackers recently took control of the Zoom community meeting between Pasadena city officials and activists and shouted racial slurs and played pornography. 

“I was shocked, and my first thought was, ‘Was this an intentional target,’” said James Farr, one of the event organizers. “Why would someone do this?”

The meeting was the fourth installment of the “Let’s Talk, Let’s Learn” series organized by Farr and Florence Annang. The series was meant to allow community members to speak about their shared experiences specifically about parks and relationships with the Pasadena Police Department.

In addition to parents and children, members of the NAACP, NDLON and Pasadenans Organizing for Progress were present either moderating or participating in the event. According to Farr, there were about 80 to 90 people on the call.

“It was a really good conversation,” Annang said. “Out of nowhere, they had taken over the screen.”

After they took over the meeting, Annang said she quickly tried to shut it down, but she couldn’t because she was a cohost.

“Everything just went downhill from there.”

The hackers interrupted NAACP board member Brandon Lamar. One of the hackers said, “You guys are getting raided please make a new meeting” while another repeatedly said derogatory racial slurs directed at African Americans. The derogatory terms were, at times, directed at Lamar. In a meeting clip that Farr posted on his Facebook, the hackers seemed to sound like teenagers.

“It just showed everybody that racism is still prevalent,” Lamar said. “I believe everybody that was there was shocked. This was the first time that’s ever happened to me… I was definitely shocked because of the type of language that was being used, the type of videos that were being shown (and) I was definitely shocked because they actually mentioned my name.”

After seizing control of the meeting and kicking out the moderators and organizers, the hackers began playing gay pornography and continued to repeatedly shout racial slurs.

“I know that parents were watching this with their children,” Farr said. “That was the last thing I would have ever expected for a child, for anybody for that matter to be exposed to unwillingly.”

While he had no control over the images and slurs that were displayed on the screen, Farr apologized to the guests, especially the parents and children.

The moderators quickly made a new meeting and invited those present in the last meeting. The rest of the event continued for about 45 minutes without a hitch.

“I think the audience showed a tremendous amount of resilience,” Farr said. “They got the new link, and we were able to continue for another 45 minutes as if it didn’t happen.”

While Farr and the participants were shocked and disturbed by the hack, the organizers have said that this will not sway them to cancel any further shows.

“One donkey doesn’t stop the whole show,” Annang said. “I think that it makes us more empowered and more encouraged as a community to amplify our voices.”