‘Zoom-bombers’ drop lewd video, racist comments at Sacramento candidate forum
A virtual community forum for two candidates running for Sacramento City Council was disrupted Wednesday night in a “Zoom-bombing” incident when participants made racist, sexist and lewd comments, and displayed sexually explicit imagery.
The virtual event was hosted by the Natomas Community Assn. and was meant to provide a public forum for Karina Talamantes and Michael Lynch, two candidates for the council’s 3rd District.
Jaycob Bytel, a spokesperson for Lynch’s campaign, told The Times that organizers ran into technical problems that forced them to make Lynch and Talamantes the forum’s hosts on Zoom.
Once the candidates were made hosts, participants were able to send them messages directly on the videoconferencing platform, Bytel said.
Lynch, who is Black, got two comments from different accounts at one point in his speaking period, his campaign spokesperson said. One comment read “kill black people.” Another consisted of a racist slur.
During Talamantes’ speaking portion, she received sexist comments and a participant displayed sexually explicit content on the Zoom conference, Bytel said.
“As candidates running positive campaigns to represent diverse communities on the City Council, we were extremely disappointed by the racist, sexist, violent, and lewd messages and imagery that were hurled at us during last night’s community forum,” the candidates said in a joint statement Thursday. “In a free, civilized society, there is no room for the kind of dehumanizing, racist, and sexist behavior that we were subjected to last night.”
The statement went on to say that both candidates are united against hatred, bigotry, racism and sexism, and that although they are opponents in the campaign, their differences are in their policy approaches.
“Those responsible may have felt empowered to hurl slurs, death threats, and lewd images against us behind the safety of their keyboards, but we stand unafraid and will continue our work on behalf of our communities,” they said. “We condemn last night’s acts in the starkest terms and reaffirm our commitment to making Sacramento a place for all people to be safe and thrive.”
Sachiko Konatsu, president of the Natomas Community Assn., also provided a statement.
“We will also be coordinating with the Sacramento Police Department to ensure this incident is documented and it does not happen again,” Konatsu said. “No one should ever have to endure such offensive behavior, in public, or in a virtual setting.”
Talamantes told The Times that the City Council race is her second campaign and that she suffered similar sexist and misogynistic behavior during her first bid for public office, a successful 2018 run for the Sacramento County Board of Education, where she serves as president.
On Easter of that year, a man called her while she was with her family, she said. The man was masturbating to her voice.
“Yesterday while I was speaking, I had a community member expose genitalia,” Talamantes said. “It was tough. Nonetheless, this type of behavior — specifically sexist behavior — is not new.”
She hopes the city will provide community associations with funding to pay for Zoom licenses, a move that could help prevent similar incidents in the future, she said.
“Natomas is a beautiful, diverse area of Sacramento,” Talamantes said. “Our ZIP Code was labeled one of the most diverse ZIP Codes in the entire country…. I do feel that the actions of the few are not reflective of the entire community. It’s unacceptable, but it’s not reflective.”
She said the event’s hosts were apologetic and she wanted to commend community leaders.
Lynch said that, as a Black man, he’s become accustomed to facing racism and that comments like those Wednesday night will not deter him from serving the public.
“I’m running on solving problems,” he said. “We will continue to focus on making sure we tackle homelessness and invest in young people, especially young people who’ve been left behind by city government.”
Talamantes is a first-generation Latina whose parents immigrated to California from Mexico, according to her campaign website.
She received her bachelor’s degree in community and regional development from UC Davis and worked with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence at the U.S. Department of Education under President Obama, her website stated. After returning to Sacramento, Talamantes worked for college access programs at which she helped low-income and first-generation students continue their higher education.
In addition to serving as president of the county Board of Education, Talamantes works as the chief of staff to Sacramento Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby, her website stated.
Lynch was raised by a single father and graduated from Valley High School in South Sacramento in 2006, according to his campaign website.
He graduated from Humboldt State University — recently renamed Cal Poly Humboldt — with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management, according to his LinkedIn page. He also holds a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Cal State Sacramento.
In 2013, Lynch co-founded the Sacramento nonprofit Improve Your Tomorrow, which works to increase the number of young men of color attending colleges and universities. He currently serves as the organization’s chief executive.
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