The city of Blaine is investigating after an anonymous attendee loudly repeated the N-word slur in a ‘Zoombombing’ incident during the Blaine City Council meeting on October 23.
The anonymous person logged into the city council meeting through Zoom, the platform the city uses to allow remote participation, and quickly began disrupting a Blaine resident who was speaking during a public hearing on manufactured home parks in east Blaine. Lasting about a minute, the individual said the N-word slur over 10 times as in-person attendees looked mortified and council and city staff worked to gain control of the situation.
City manager Mike Harmon said city staff actively monitors participants who remotely attend city council meetings.
“In this particular case, the individual unmuted themselves and made the comments that they made,” he said. “We muted them and then they signed out and then signed in with a different username and did the same thing.”
City clerk Sam Crawford said the city is unsure whether one or multiple individuals disrupted the meeting.
“I would like to apologize to you for the comments that were made online by someone,” mayor Mary Lou Steward said to the Blaine resident who was interrupted. “This does not represent the feelings of anyone in this building and I am very sorry for this.”
Blaine City Council is a recent example of public meetings across the U.S. that have been ‘Zoombombed’ since remote meetings on Zoom became popular at the start of the pandemic. ‘Zoombombing’ refers to a meeting being disrupted by someone who often uses highly offensive and harassing language or images.
Other public meetings battling ‘Zoombombers’ include city councils in Santa Cruz County, California where racist, antisemitic and misogynistic slurs were used and a city council meeting in Vermont that was disrupted by antisemitic comments, according to their local media outlets.
Harmon said city staff is figuring out who made the disturbance by looking at their IP address and profile. Once the person or people are identified, Blaine Police Department will become involved. It’s unknown right now if the person who interrupted the meeting is local, Harmon said.
City staff is also working with Zoom to try to restrict remote participants from being able to unmute themselves. Crawford said he doesn’t recall the city, which has used Zoom since 2020, previously being ‘Zoombombed’ during a public meeting.
“The comments were extremely inappropriate and not representative of the culture or the decorum that the city wants or will allow during a council meeting,” Harmon said. “We will take reasonable measures to prevent this from happening in the future.”
Nolan Baker contributed to the reporting of this article.
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