The following statement can be found on the Long Reach Community Association website:

A Statement Regarding Candidates’ Night.

On behalf of the Long Reach Community Association and the Election Committee, we want to both express our deepest regret and explain what occurred on the virtual candidate’s forum last night.  The candidate’s forum was infiltrated approximately 35 minutes into the event.  The forum was then closed and restarted at 8:10 in a webinar format.

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What happened:

  • LRCA hosted a public candidates forum starting at 7 p.m. with approximately 30 attendees
  • LRCA posted Zoom sign-in information on our website, which was shared widely for candidates night.  The event was planned as a Zoom meeting (with a passcode) rather than a webinar or other limited broadcast experience to try to give residents the greatest opportunity to meaningfully participate.  As a public, open meeting, LRCA allows users to join by telephone and without being logged in to Zoom.
  • 35 minutes into the meeting during the Question-and-Answer portion of the meeting, several anonymous users joined and began to disrupt the meeting by:
    • Screaming
    • Instructing LRCA to end the meeting
    • Making derogatory and hateful comments
    • Recorded and/or live lewd video
  • LRCA staff attempted to mute and remove the infiltrators, however, it became clear that multiple users were engaged in a coordinated attack.
  • LRCA elected to end the Zoom meeting.
  • LRCA quickly set up a webinar-format Zoom event requiring registration and that attendees were logged into Zoom, and attempted to distribute that information for a relaunch of candidate’s night at 8:10 p.m.
  • In webinar format, only the candidates, LRCA staff, and election committee chair were visible and the candidates night was completed with a much smaller audience (13 attendees).  We sincerely regret that the original event was disrupted and all residents were not able to continue.
  • Candidates night continued and candidates were able to provide their closing statements.  Candidates were asked if they wished to record the closing statements, and respectfully declined.

Next steps:

  • LRCA is working to report the incident to both Howard County Police and the FBI and will update the community with more information when it becomes available.
  • LRCA will discuss additional security measures to avoid such an incident, while trying to make our Zoom meetings as accessible as possible to our residents.  We will also discuss other platform choices, and how to best create an open meeting that is accessible while reducing the chance of a similar attack in the future.

Our reaction

We are upset that this incident happened, and deeply regret the trauma that has been felt by our residents, the candidates, Long Reach staff, and our board members.  The actions of these anonymous users were heinous.  For some, the experience was of witnessing a silly, childish prank, to be easily brushed off and forgotten.  For others, the experience was far more hurtful and traumatic – particular due to the nature of the attack.  We recognize that not everyone experiences the same events in the same way, and we offer our sympathy, support, and regret for the experience.

We want to thank the village board members and members of the election committee for their quick pivot, the LRCA staff for their level headedness and valiantly reaching out to as many attendees as they could, and the candidates for their grace under pressure and their willingness to continue with the forum under the conditions.  Thank you especially to the residents who attended and then logged back into a webinar as the event was restarted.

Thank you for the support and grace that you have shown Long Reach, and for your understanding.  Please feel free to contact info@longreach.org with any feedback or comments.

David Wissing, Chair, Long Reach Election Committee

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Here are some suggestions for future events:

  1. Only share the Zoom meeting link with those participating in the event and create a waiting room – only admitting those that should be participating in the event
  2.  Live stream the event on Facebook and or YouTube
  3.  Embed that live stream (either from Facebook and/or YouTube) on the community website making it accessible to everyone online

Those steps would make the event open to anyone wishing to view it and would better secure the event.

Scott E