A virtual town hall hosted by Connecticut's first Black congresswoman was interrupted by racist trolls

A virtual town hall hosted by Jahana Hayes was interrupted by racist Zoombombers, in what appeared to be a coordinated attack, she said.

(CNN)Connecticut's first Black congresswoman said her virtual town hall this week was disrupted by Zoombombers, who posted messages in the chat such as "SHUT UP N****R, GO PICK YOUR COTTON" and "TRUMP 2020."

Rep. Jahana Hayes, a Democrat up for reelection this November, said the incident happened on Monday during a virtual "listening session" with Newtown residents.
They were 10 minutes into the fourth meeting when someone said: "Shut up, N-word," according to Hayes, who published a piece about the incident on Medium.
Hayes' team then muted the person and removed them from the meeting. But Hayes said it happened again, from a different participant, with the N-word on a loop set to music.
    "This is repeated by two more people, clearly a coordinated effort," Hayes wrote in her essay. "Six minutes of vile, disgusting, dare I say deplorable, hate- and I am on full display as I process, in real time, what is happening."
    The chat section was inundated with pro-Trump comments and racist rhetoric, including one repeated message that said "SHUT UP N****R GO PICK YOUR COTTON."
    Hayes posted photos of the harassment on Twitter, saying "This behavior is being normalized! We can ALL choose not to accept it. Please vote on Nov 3rd."
    In a Wednesday night interview with CNN's Don Lemon, Hayes said it's important to talk about hateful messages and incidents when they take place and that's why she decided to pen her essay.
    "Everyone always says, 'well you don't want to bring more oxygen to it, you don't want to keep talking about it.' But I think that contributes to the problem. This is happening," she said.
    "We have racism bubbling under the surface. And it's exhausting to be expected to always take the high road, to always show grace, and poise, like we're these super human beings and we're not bothered by this."
    Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont called the attack "not Connecticut, not right," during a press conference Thursday.
    "We're talking about the Covid virus, how incredibly infectious it is," said Lamont. "I haven't said this in a few months, but racism is also incredibly infectious, and I just think we got to speak out every time you see it and hear it."
    With so many meetings switching to virtual platforms, "Zoombombing," or cyber harassment from unidentified trolls hijacking the meeting, has become something of a phenomenon -- with even the FBI issuing a warning about the threat in March.
    The company responded to the incident in a tweet.
    "We are deeply upset to hear about this and we take the privacy of Zoom Meetings very seriously," the company wrote in response to Hayes.
    In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Zoom said the company "strongly condemns such hateful behavior."
    "Zoom is in communication with Representative Hayes' office regarding this matter. "We are committed to maintaining an equal, respectful and inclusive online environment for all our users," the spokesperson said in an email to CNN, pointing to various measures the platform has made including updating a number of default settings and adding features "to help hosts more easily access in-meeting security controls."
    "We take meeting disruptions extremely seriously and where appropriate, we work closely with law enforcement authorities," the spokesperson said. "We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind to Zoom and law enforcement authorities so the appropriate action can be taken against offenders."
    In her interview with Lemon, Hayes said for her, this wasn't a question about Zoom security.
    "These people registered for the meeting, they were sent the link," she said. "So they didn't technically 'Zoombomb,' they were invited guests. The problem is they were spewing racist hate. That's the problem."
    In her essay, Hayes detailed the mental impact of this kind of racist attack, writing that she is "not ok."
      "I have watched other women weather this storm and fend off these types of attacks and wonder if in their quiet places they have felt what I am feeling right now. We have become numb to this behavior, instinct kicks in and we just move on," she wrote. "We are left debating zoom security, yet not addressing the underlying issue- that pockets of racism and hate still exist right in our own front yard."
      In a tweet, David X. Sullivan, Hayes' Republican challenger, called the incident "appalling."