State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad wasn’t on the most recent call with Black legislators when Zoombombers hacked the meeting and flashed racist images and the N-word, but he had plenty to say about the "threat" during Sunday’s Iowa Democratic Black Caucus meeting held via Zoom.
“Why are we getting caught up on the phone call with people calling us N-words and stuff? They’ve been doing that. Harriet Tubman was called a N-word. That didn’t stop her doing the Underground Railroad,” Abdul-Samad said.
The caucus holds meetings twice a month to discuss a wide range of topics including organizing, candidates and party happenings. About 16 people were on the call when Abdul-Samad (D-Des Moines), 70, brought up the recent Zoombombing incident, which happened on Jan. 7 during the People’s Condition of the State. At least three Black legislators attended the meeting, which caucus leadership helped organize along with Progress Iowa and others. The Iowa Democratic Party, the Iowa Republican Party and others have condemned that attack.
Abdul-Samad denounced the Zoombombers.
“The true N-word was the one on the call . . . I’m not owning that. I don’t know who the hell they were talking about. When they got to calling them names . . . I think we should have said: ‘I’m glad you’re representing the people. I’m glad you’re representing N-words. I’m happy for you. You know but can you get off this call because human beings are on here now talking.’ And I think then cut them off.”
During Abdul-Samad’s statements, Iowa Democratic Party Chair and State Rep. Ross Wilburn and State Reps. Phyllis Thede, Amy Nielsen and Marti Anderson were among those on the call.
“We have taken all the crap off of folks, now it’s time for us to stand up and fight back,” Abdul-Samad told meeting participants.
Black Iowa legislators have dealt with an increasing number of racist attacks. Last year, Wilburn received threats, including lynching, and he was called the N-word repeatedly, after he wrote an opinion piece for the Des Moines Register criticizing the Republican Party of Iowa and former president Donald Trump before a Trump rally on Oct. 9 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
Zoombombers hacked a meeting on Jan. 7, attended by at least three Black legislators. The trolls flashed the image of a monkey, the N-word and used racial slurs in the chat feature.
Last February, a Black caucus meeting attended by U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty was Zoombombed. Black Caucus Chair Al Womble said authorities have been alerted in each instance and provided with meeting recordings.
Trolls spewing the N-word and “white power” last February briefly disrupted a virtual legislative forum hosted on Facebook by four legislators, including Abdul-Samad.
Womble, the meeting host, also condemned the racist attacks.
“I just think racism needs to be called out.” he said.
Nationally, Zoombombing incidents have disrupted governmental meetings, groups and schools. Womble said Sunday’s caucus meeting required pre-registration to help improve meeting security.
“So if anything happens – hopefully nothing will – we'll have quite a bit more to turn over to authorities,” Womble told meeting participants. “But you know, I'm not going to stop and I'm not going to quit. I know that all of you on this call are not either because it's one of those situations where, you know, we can't stop organizing.”
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