10/6/20: COUNCIL ZOOM MEETING HACKED (“BOMBED”) BY SWASTIKA IMAGE, RACIST MESSAGE. Full Meeting Held After Zoom Feed Shut Down, Then Resumed.

Town Manager Cliff Ogburn also said during his report that he and Police Chief David Kole take the removal of political signs from people’s yards very seriously. Mr. Ogburn encouraged Town residents to report the thefts to Dare Central, which may be reached at 473-3444.

A large Nazi swastika appeared on the Zoom videoconference of the Southern Shores Town Council meeting this evening in a sudden “Zoombombing” attack shortly after accountant Teresa Osborne said she would give “highlights” of the Town’s fiscal year 2019-20 audit.

Within seconds, the menacing voice of a male cyberattacker or hacker could be heard saying, “Shut up, niggers,” and another threat that included the word “bitch.”

One of six participants on Zoom, I was so astonished by the bombing takeover that I did not catch the wording of the other racist intimidation, which stopped Ms. Osborne cold. The voice was scratchy, as if it were traveling by radio waves from a distance.

The Zoombombing happened so suddenly and unexpectedly that it was hard to take in.

The name Jussten Davis appeared in the participants’ row at the top of the Zoom conference screen, as did another name that I had no time to write down and cannot recall.

In a fast display of images, the photograph of a young black man, either in his teens or early 20s, emerged on the screen, with the name Jussten Davis under it. The youth was wearing a T-shirt with a message that played off of the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement.  

The capital letters F and U also filled the screen, one at a time, flashing as if a word was being spelled, but the remaining two letters never appeared. Just the shorthand F-U.

The hacking takeover lasted about a minute, if that, before Town staff closed the Zoom meeting.

When I rejoined the meeting, Ms. Osborne was almost finished with her brief presentation. I heard no one on the Town Council or on the Town staff address the Zoombombing, but they may have. By text, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn described the intimidation as “awful.”

“I’m sorry it happened,” he said.

White supremacists today use the Nazi swastika as a symbol of race-based hatred, as well as anti-Semitism, but I never thought I would see it associated with a Southern Shores Town Council meeting, even tangentially.

The Council went on to hold a full, information-packed meeting, during which Mr. Ogburn gave his strongest Town Manager’s report to date—albeit without being on camera.

The camera remained mostly fixed on the five members of the Council, who resumed the dais for this meeting—after months of sitting informally at tables in the area formerly occupied by the audience. They sat at least six feet apart from each other and wore face coverings. Town staff sat socially distanced elsewhere near the walls of the meeting room.

The meeting also was live-streamed on You Tube, Mr. Ogburn announced. All future Council meetings will be live-streamed, he said, so people can watch them in real time, but not be able to comment as they can on Zoom.

“I’m really excited about that moving forward,” he said. I agree it is a major improvement. 

After less than four months, Mr. Ogburn is clearly in command of his job. Among the newsworthy announcements he made in a thorough and efficient manner was one about the hiring of J.M. Teague Engineering and Planning, of Waynesville, N.C., to conduct the Town’s traffic study.

Waynesville is 30 miles southwest of Asheville, near the N.C.-Tennessee border.

According to Mr. Ogburn, the study project will take 90 business days to complete.

I will give more details about the traffic project and write a longer report about the business of tonight’s meeting as soon as I can.

Ms. Osborne pronounced the Town in “strong financial condition,” but I am reluctant to quote figures until after I have reviewed the meeting video and/or her 55-page audit report.

[UPDATE 10/7/20: The Town’s unassigned fund balance is $5,995,546 as of June 30, 2020, according to the Dowdy & Osborne audit.]

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/6/20; article revised 10/8/20 to update the tech-speak

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