Waterloo virtual vigil for London attack victims interrupted with racist, Islamophobic messages

A virtual vigil organized in Waterloo Region Tuesday night in honour of the Muslim family killed in an attack in London was the target of a racist Zoom bomb.

An anonymous person or persons took over the video conference hosted by the Kitchener Waterloo Coalition of Muslim Women, sending racist, Islamophobic and homophobic messages in the public chat.

"It was just reliving the trauma and the killing in London, not just that our physical spaces but in the virtual ones too," said the coalition's executive director, Fazia Mazhar.

"I am still reeling from what we witnessed," said Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo.

The vigil was held to honour the four people, all from the same family, killed in an anti-Muslim attack in London. Police say a 20-year-old man drove his truck into the family while they were out for a walk Sunday night.

A nine-year-old boy – the lone survivor – remains in hospital.

The 20-year-old is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

The Zoom bomb came as a disturbing interruption as many in the Waterloo community grieved.

An audio message also blasted on the Zoom call vigil is believed to be aimed directly at the coalition and its female members who were hosting the event.

"They maintained their cool, they walked everyone through it. They're hurting the most right now but they were more concerned about everyone else," said Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger.

Mazhar says her name was specifically mentioned in some of the malicious messages.

"The sense of entitlement that would bring you to violate a space for mourning and grieving," she said.

The coalition is calling for tougher action to combat Islamophobia and concrete legislation against hate speech.

"I look forward to seeing online hate speech legislation," Chagger said.

"We have a concrete opportunity to do that," Lindo said.

Mazhar says multiple Waterloo regional police officers were on the Zoom call when the offensive messages came in and helped to quickly kick those who shared the hate out of the call.

She also spoke with investigators Wednesday morning, with Waterloo regional police confirming an investigation is underway.