Authorities are investigating after an unidentified person or people apparently crashed a Hoboken City Council Meeting, dumping racist messages in the chat section of the Zoom feed, police told News 4 Thursday.
The Wednesday night incident is being investigated as a bias harassment case, Hoboken police said. Twenty-two panelists, two of them Black, were on the Zoom feed at the time the messages started appearing around 8:21 p.m. The belief is that the posts were aimed at one or both of those Black participants, cops said.
Hoboken Police Chief Ken Ferrante said he hopes to get an IP address from Zoom and will file subpoenas to access that information if needed. Ferrante doesn't believe the messages were visible to anyone outside the Zoom meeting; he says the likelihood those messages weren't viewable on a Facebook Live feed is high.
Only four panelists actually saw the post, according to Ferrante, who says he took screenshots of the messages and then disabled the chat feature.
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The Hudson County prosecutor’s office and the New Jersey attorney general’s office were both notified of the incident.
"Our detectives are going to do everything in their power to attempt to identify the suspect," Ferrante said. "If anyone has any information regarding those posts, please contact investigating Detective Luis Rodriguez at 201-420-5102 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
A litany of Hoboken political leaders, including Mayor Ravi Bhalla and nine city councilmembers condemned the intrusion in a joint statement Thursday.
"There are certain words that should never be said, ever, in any context whatsoever, which were sadly used at last night's virtual City Council meeting," the statement read. "Hoboken will never stand for hate of any kind, and we forcefully denounce the individuals responsible for this behavior."