Homophobic, antisemitic comments derail Black Diamond council meeting

The Zoom bombing lasted 13 minutes, and was cut off when an individual attempted to show a lewd image.

The recent Black Diamond City Council’s public comment period went off the rails when a group of four began sharing extreme homophobic, antisemitic, and racist ideologies.

On June 6, after about half an hour of staff presentations, a man identified as Albert and who claimed to be a city resident, asked the council to approve a resolution against Pride Month, which is recognized every June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The city itself had a Pride Flag raising on June 3.

“I really think that… we don’t support celebrating Pride because it just doesn’t fit with our morals,” he said.

Albert’s comments quickly went downhill as he called the LGBTQ community a “degenerate cult.”

“The Islamic Nation wouldn’t tolerate this, and us Americans shouldn’t either,” he continued. “… How can regular people who just want to be left alone co-exist with a group that literally wants to rape and kill children?”

The next 13 minutes was much of the same, or worse, and one man got in a loud “heil Hitler” before city staff cut the Zoom feed.

It’s unknown whether these people were locals with sincere beliefs or “trolls” that coordinated a Zoom Bombing; either way, they earned sharp repudiations from council members.

“Tonight’s callers were quite timely. On today’s date, 80 years ago, the Allies stood up to fascism and kicked it in it’s butt,” said Councilmember Nathan Jones. “Tonight, your words have proven that allies are still needed. They’re still needed in this world, despite the fact that a generation or more ago thought their battle was won.”

“I am still heartbroken and beside myself that our community was subjected to horrifically abusive language that makes all of us feel less safe,” Councilmember Kristiana de Leon wrote on Facebook. “The language and imagery that our community was subjected to is what leads to real-world violence.”

But they also talked about how this sort of speech is protected under the First Amendment.

Councilmember Brad Douglass said that he would prefer to subject himself to this “hateful” language instead of attempting to silence it.

“It’s very difficult for us to hear things like that, but it’s our duty as elected representatives, as citizens, to listen to that, and then rebut that — to hear it and stare it down and speak truth to that,” he continued.

“While I personally would have liked them cut off immediately, the First Amendment does provide the right to freely speak and limits what a city can do to suppress hateful or vulgar comments from the public once the microphone has been handed over to them, even a virtual one,” said Councilmember Debbie Page in an email interview. “It was horrible listening to the disgusting and bigoted remarks, but as CM Douglas said in his report at the end of the meeting that sometimes goes with the territory of being an elected official.”

“I think it’s important to err on the side of caution by allowing offensive comments to continue unless they clearly cross the line into unprotected speech,” Mayor Carol Benson said in an email interview. “While many of the things said during the public comments during the June 6 meeting were offensive to me and do not reflect the values of my administration, I think the better solution to offensive and hateful speech is to repudiate it rather than to silence the speaker.”

Benson clarified that staff eventually did cut the feed because the last speaker showed “a very lewd picture” via screen share.