An inflammatory phrase using the n-word was one of many disruptions to a Fresno City Council meeting on June 11, held online via the videoconferencing platform Zoom.
The man said “kill all n-words,” twice, before his audio was muted by city councilmembers. Another attendee used an explicit phrase including the n-word as a username, and another attendee “Zoom-bombed” the meeting with pornographic videos. The disruptions followed a presentation by advocates for African-American health and members of a local chapter of the NAACP. "Welcome to the black experience," texted Shantay Davies-Balch, CEO of the Black Wellness and Prosperity Center and one of the presenters, after the meeting.
Speaking with FM89, City Council President Miguel Arias said the commenter acted like a “dumbass,” and said he doesn’t represent the community as a whole. “It’s not a reflection of our city, who has demonstrated to our nation that we can peacefully protest and have civil dialogues and differences of opinion,” he said.
The commenter identified himself as Brian Patterson, but Arias is doubtful that’s his real name. Zoom allows users to choose their own usernames, and Arias said that some in the past have fraudulently gone by councilmembers’ names. Arias also said that this week’s call was not the first time a meeting had been interrupted by inappropriate images, including other pornographic videos and photos of the Confederate flag.
Despite these disruptions, Arias argued that the technology has still expanded the city council’s public reach. “We have now allowed hundreds of people to not only observe, but to participate in our council meetings,” he said. When held in person, he says, around 10 members of the public would attend meetings. With an online audience, this week it was nearly 500.
So far, Arias said, no disruptive incidents have warranted using public funds to launch investigations.