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Spokane councilmembers show support for Gonzaga's BSU after racist 'Zoom-bombing'

Councilmembers Betsy Wilkerson, Michael Cathcart and Kate Burke are calling for a resolution in “condemning white supremacy and the spread of racial divisiveness.”

SPOKANE, Wash — Spokane City Council members and Gonzaga University administrators met with members of the university’s Black Student Union after the group’s meeting was hacked and taken over by internet trolls yelling derogatory language.

According to a press release from City of Spokane Director of Communications Lisa Gardner, Councilmembers Betsy Wilkerson, Michael Cathcart and Kate Burke are calling for a resolution in “condemning white supremacy and the spread of racial divisiveness.”

During the Nov. 8 Zoom meeting, hackers hurled racist and homophobic slurs at the club members. At one point, a video was played with someone holding an assault rifle and firing shots at people.

"I was about really to cry because it was, it was so painful," Wilkerson said to KREM 2's Morgan Trau. "It's an experience that many, many folks of color have had to engage with."

Members of the Black Student Union say they're concerned their safe space on campus will no longer exist.  

Gonzaga's Black Student Union also posted a list of demands from the university to its Facebook page. It reads:

  • Follow through-0 with their promises by using every resource available to find out who did this.
  • Hold the individuals accountable for this hate crime against BSU and the GU community.
  • Set clear goals and enact tangible change to protect Black and POC students on campus.
  • Provide a therapist of color to help BSU members process and unpack the emotions they are feeling after this traumatic incident.
  • Plan and execute a town hall for members of the administration to address what happened and speak honestly and openly to the Gonzaga community, instead of just sending out an email.

"The students can't make that kind of systemic change at Gonzaga, or any other organization, because they're not operating from a position of power," said Wilkerson. "They have a voice, but not a position of power."

The University said they heard the demands and are working with the students. In the meantime, Wilkerson has set up a meeting with the college president to create a resolution.

“As a black woman living all of my life in Spokane, I have firsthand experience of racial intimidation, microaggressions and acts of hate and frankly it’s tiring,” Wilkerson said in the press release. “It is absolutely disheartening to hear these students of color, most who are visitors to our city, have been subjected to such vile hatred at such an esteemed institution like Gonzaga. From a national level, we’ve seen extreme racial tensions; however, when it comes to our back yard, as a community leader, I am compelled to speak out against any hate crime that leaves a stain on our City.”

“I am saddened to hear that these types of incidents are still happening, and still there has been lack of conversation around the systematic changes that needs to happen,” Burke added in the press release. “Gonzaga University and The City of Spokane have a major task and responsibility in rebuilding the trust of not only the students, but also the community that supports them. I am in full support of what the BSU demands of Gonzaga and will back them until the administration fully makes the changes asked for. It is not unreasonable of the students to ask for safety, cultural awareness and to hold the attackers accountable.”

“It’s deeply disturbing and troubling that students at Gonzaga would commit such an act of racist hatred towards their fellow students,” Cathcart stated in the press release. “I hope that the GU Administration follows through with their commitment to thoroughly investigating this act and punishing those responsible. The students at Gonzaga deserve a safe campus free of these horrific incidents.”

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh said the university's Information Technology Services Department captured data and conducted an initial forensic analysis on the attack. Campus Security and Public Safety then reached out to law enforcement for assistance.

Two detectives with the Spokane Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Unit have been assigned to this case and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is also facilitating a preliminary review and investigation, McCulloh said. Initial analysis shows that the IP addresses of the attackers are both domestic and international, he added.