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Ogden Diversity Commission electronic meeting interrupted by group making racist chants, gestures

By Mitch Shaw Standard-Examiner - | May 14, 2020
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Diversity Commission Chair Taylor Knuth-Bishop speaks at a press conference on Thursday, May 14, 2020, regarding a "Zoom bomb" of a virtual Ogden City Diversity Commission meeting on Wednesday. The interruption was vulgar and racist in nature.

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Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt speaks at a press conference on Thursday, May 14, 2020, regarding a "Zoom bomb" of a virtual Ogden City Diversity Commission meeting on Wednesday. The interruption was vulgar and racist in nature.

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Ogden City Mayor Mike Caldwell speaks at a press conference on Thursday, May 14, 2020, regarding a "Zoom bomb" of a virtual Ogden City Diversity Commission meeting on Wednesday. The interruption was vulgar and racist in nature.

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Diversity Commission Chair Taylor Knuth-Bishop speaks at a press conference on Thursday, May 14, 2020, regarding a "Zoom bomb" of a virtual Ogden City Diversity Commission meeting on Wednesday. The interruption was vulgar and racist in nature.

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Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt speaks at a press conference on Thursday, May 14, 2020, regarding a "Zoom bomb" of a virtual Ogden City Diversity Commission meeting on Wednesday. The interruption was vulgar and racist in nature.

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Ogden City Mayor Mike Caldwell speaks at a press conference on Thursday, May 14, 2020, regarding a "Zoom bomb" of a virtual Ogden City Diversity Commission meeting on Wednesday. The interruption was vulgar and racist in nature.

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Diversity Commission Chair Taylor Knuth-Bishop speaks at a press conference on Thursday, May 14, 2020, regarding a "Zoom bomb" of a virtual Ogden City Diversity Commission meeting on Wednesday. The interruption was vulgar and racist in nature.

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Ogden City Mayor Mike Caldwell speaks at a press conference on Thursday, May 14, 2020, regarding a "Zoom bomb" of a virtual Ogden City Diversity Commission meeting on Wednesday. The interruption was vulgar and racist in nature.

OGDEN — An electronic Ogden City Diversity Commission meeting was interrupted Monday afternoon when an uninvited group of individuals joined the body’s virtual video call, shouting racist slurs, making racist gestures and displaying pornographic images.

Ogden City Police Lt. Brian Eynon said the incident occurred just after 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 13. Eynon said the group was made up of “several dozen” individuals and the meeting was terminated shortly after the activity began.

Diversity Commission Chair Taylor Knuth-Bishop said the group, members of which appeared to be in their early teens, chanted the N-word repeatedly and typed “Kill N—–s!!!” in the commission’s chat system. Knuth-Bishop posted a photo of one of the individuals on his Facebook account, an image that appeared to show the male doing a Nazi salute.

“We must remind our communities of color that they are valued, respected, and deserving of existing in our city without fear of discrimination or oppression based on the color of their skin,” Knuth-Bishop said in a statement. “We stand with our communities of color in explicitly condemning racial slurs and gestures.”

The city’s Diversity Commission was formed in 2016 and is an official charter of the Ogden City Mayor’s office. The group is designed to give a municipal voice to underrepresented groups in Ogden — blacks, Latinos, women, members of the LGBTQ community, the disabled and others.

According to the group’s charter, their mission is to create a plan that “will be used to identify and resolve issues, promote equity, cultivate positive cultural awareness, promote cultural traditions, and enhance the well-being and quality-of-life of those living in or visiting Ogden.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ogden City has been holding all government meetings electronically, to prevent the spread of the virus. Links to join the meetings are publicly available on the city’s website.

Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell called Monday’s incident “despicable” and said the city will update security features for all of its online meetings.

“One of the best things about Ogden is our diversity,” Caldwell said. “And here we have this all-volunteer commission that’s dedicated to promoting our diversity and helping us address issues that might arise there. To have this happen is really just a shame. It’s sad people would think it’s funny or take some kind of joy from it.”

Ogden Police Department released a statement saying the incident is under investigation and being treated as a “high priority case.” The statement says those responsible will be held accountable to the full extent of what the law allows.

Eynon said the police department’s Area Tactical Analysis Center is working to identify the assailants. Police Chief Randy Watt also said the department is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. If, during that investigation, it’s found anyone from the group made threats to members of the commission or anyone else, that could yield charges.

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