Anonymous callers ‘hijack’ St Mary’s LGBT+ event to shout homophobic and racist slurs

Durham University have since confirmed that they have received reports of ‘Zoom bombing’ at student-led events

The St Mary’s LGBT+ Association released a statement on Monday evening saying they have fallen victim to a “hate crime”, in which their welcome meeting, held on 5th October, was hijacked.

Between 15 and 20 anonymous callers entered the meeting, and proceeded to shout homophobic and racist slurs. Durham University have since confirmed they have received reports of “Zoom bombing” at student-run events, where uninvited callers attempt to take over a meeting by sharing disturbing content with other members.

In the statement shared to their Facebook page and written in collaboration with the Durham LGBT+ Association and Durham People of Colour Association (DPOCA), the St Mary’s LGBT+ Association writes: “On Monday 5th October, the Saint Mary’s College LGBT+ Association hosted a virtual Zoom event to welcome freshers into our vibrant community. The Zoom link was shared on internal Mary’s channels, and was well attended.

“Sadly, the call was hijacked by 15-20 anonymous callers. These individuals took it upon themselves to shout a number of homophobic and racist slurs at the participants of this call and proceeded to share sexually explicit videos on their screens, as well as play extremely loud, disorientating music. An investigation has already been launched by the University to find those who are responsible.”

The statement goes on to add: “The participants of this call were left feeling upset, threatened and above all, unsafe. It goes without saying that this kind of malicious behaviour is completely and totally unacceptable. The SMC LGBT+ Association’s primary objective is to foster an environment that is welcoming, nurturing and most crucially, safe. This is vital now more than ever, due to the way in which the COVID-19 pandemic has severely limited the ways in which we can interact with and support one another.”

It concludes: “80 per cent of anti-LGBT hate crimes go unreported, which is why we believe it is so important that we bring this incident to the attention of the entire University community. We would also personally ask each and every member of the University community to act as active bystanders by challenging any homophobic, transphobic, racist, and sexist behaviour when they encounter it. Durham students have a duty to support the LGBT+ people in their lives. Because of the pandemic, the support networks that many LGBT+ people have established are no longer available to them.”

Since news of the incident was first shared on social media, a number of colleges’ LGBT+ Associations have released statements of support to the SMC LGBT+ Association.

Yesterday, St Aidan’s LGBTQIA+ Society said: “We stand in support of St Mary’s College LGBT+ association and any individuals affected by this hate crime. Homophobia and Racism have no place at Durham University and we all need to actively work in creating an environment where everyone feels accepted and celebrated regardless of gender identity, sexuality or race.”

Hatfield College’s LGBT+ Association, known as “Hatfield’s Circle of Pride” added: “We’re so sorry to see this happen at Durham University. We are in full support of St Mary’s College LGBT+ Association they are so amazing for what they already did prior to this and the way in which they are responding to this hate crime. We need to stand together now more than ever!”

When asked about the incident at St Mary’s College, Sam Dale, Director of Student Support and Wellbeing, said: “The University has been informed about incidents of Zoom bombing, where uninvited guests share their screens to bombard real attendees with disturbing or distracting content, leaving participants feeling distressed, threatened and unsafe.

“Such behaviour is not acceptable at Durham University and will not be tolerated. Incidents will be reported to the Police.

“Every member of the University is expected to treat others with respect and tolerance so that every member of our community can live, study and work in a safe and inclusive environment.”

St Mary’s LGBT+ Association have been contacted for comment.