Racist Messages, Threats Disrupt Transformative Justice Conference

Feb 20, 2021, 10:05 AM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Racist messages, threats and even child porn bombarded participants of an online conference, and organizers and participants said they believed the attack may have been launched by white supremacists.

Ken-Tay Lee said he was presenting at the seventh annual Transformative Justice and Abolition Criminology Conference around 1:45 p.m. Friday when the Zoom meeting was overwhelmed.

“A lot of different pictures were coming up of people joining the conference,” explained Brock Smith, a Salt Lake Community College student who helped facilitate the event. “I was like, ‘This is kind of strange.’ Most people don’t just rush in this late into a conference. I noticed these pictures becoming more obscure and crazy or strange, if you will. Then, we started hearing this crackling noise and then our (microphones) were overcome by what sounded like multiple voices — males, females, just all these different voices—saying racial slurs, that ‘we will kill you,’ you know, racial slurs, and it escalated to a point that there was child pornography.”

Smith said moderators of the conference — which was co-sponsored by SLCC and several other groups — tried to delete or mute the accounts, but the situation grew worse.

Xris Macias, director of the Dream Center at the University of Utah and national director of research at the nonprofit group Save the Kids, said he hosted the event on his personal computer and was essentially forced to shut it down two hours early.

“It was very disturbing,” Lee said. “We see these messages. These are very much threats of violence and they feel the same way as violence.”

Police were looking into what happened and who was responsible.

Macias said it appeared several emails were used in the attack.

Regardless of who was involved, organizers said the evidence pointed to a case of racism and bigotry.

“It’s not a way to live,” Smith said. “Thinking like that constricts your mind, it constricts your essence, it limits your understanding. For me personally, I live my life trying to gain understanding every day and it’s a beautiful thing when I can.”

Smith also said what happened was very similar to what unfolded Save the Kids.

“I think it has to be local because, you know, two weeks ago at a meeting with the Black Student Union — that was attacked,” Smith said. “Why would someone on a national level pinpoint and target Salt Lake Community College and a Zoom meeting for a Black student union?”

Everyone KSL interviewed said what happened would only strengthen their resolve to seek greater equality in areas of criminal justice and education.

“This type of incident gives us the message that we are doing something right if they’re trying to put a stop to it,” Macias said.

Smith said every step taken by hate groups in opposition would result in two more steps from him in a positive direction.

“It’s hard to see this in a nation where this shouldn’t exist again,” Lee said. “We will love and trust and we will use our education to prepare a different way of thinking. They’re on the wrong side of progress.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Brooke Williams

Attempted kidnapping near Utah junior high has school, police warning parents

Attempted kidnapping in Taylorsville near junior high school is being investigated.
17 hours ago
Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

McDonald’s is selling Happy Meals to adults 

McDonald's has a new happy meal for adults - with a special twist.
17 hours ago
The panel discussed how the Utah Inland Port can be a leader in solving the supply chain crisis.(KS...
Carter Williams

2nd Utah inland port audit blasts lack of ‘transparency and accountability’ in contracts

A second audit of Utah Inland Port Authority practices emphasizes again that the agency should adjust its contract agreement policy.
17 hours ago
(KSL TV)...
Casey Scott, KSL TV

Casey Scott gives first-hand preview of ‘Xtreme Bulls’ event in Nephi

The Juab County Fairgrounds in Nephi are getting ready for a big event this weekend - "Xtreme Bulls 2022."
17 hours ago
Best Friends Animal Society breaks ground on project that will provide housing for employees....
Brooke Williams

Utah’s Best Friends Animal Society breaks ground on staff housing project

The Best Friends Animal Society is building 24 housing units for it's employees in an effort to retain staff at their headquarters in Southern Utah.
17 hours ago
(Garland Fire Department)...
Madison Swenson

One taken to hospital after car rolls 100 feet off I-15

A driver was able to get out by themselves after their vehicle rolled 100 feet down into an embankment in Box Elder County.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Racist Messages, Threats Disrupt Transformative Justice Conference