A Zoom session held by a Seattle City Council candidate was interrupted by racist slurs Wednesday, leading the candidate and the chairperson of the state Democratic Party to speak out.

Brianna Thomas was just starting a Zoom session with phone-banking volunteers when someone pasted 50 lines repeating the n-word, in all caps, in the chat, she said. Everyone knows that running for office is hard, “But this isn’t just hard. This is violent,” said Thomas, who is Black.

“People need to know this still happens,” she said. “I think we trick ourselves, particularly in the Pacific Northwest … But I think there have got to be other candidates of color experiencing racism, overt and covert, up and down the I-5 corridor.”

Thomas, chief of staff to council President M. Lorena González and a candidate for Position 9, said her campaign manager quickly kicked the person out of the Zoom session. The person had apparently registered for the session, which was publicized by the campaign on social media, likely using a pseudonym, Thomas said.

The campaign has reported the incident to Zoom. The police have higher-priority work to do, Thomas said.

Zoom bombings that target marginalized people spark demands for legal protections

The migration of in-person events to online video during the COVID-19 pandemic has yielded a surge in cyberharassment, in which hijackers disrupt sessions with racist, antisemitic, homophobic and pornographic material. Researchers and civil rights advocates have raised the alarm about lasting psychological effects and called for better legal protections and enforcement.

Tina Podlodowski, chairperson of the Washington State Democrats, issued a statement: “We should all condemn the racist attacks we saw made in this case by some disgusting online troll,” she said. “But the bigger picture is, we need to make our politics and our elections safe for Black women to run in and succeed.”