SAN JOSE (KPIX) — On Easter, a San Jose church’s online service was disrupted by a group of hackers throwing racist and homophobic insults at the parishioners. A week later, the congregation met again, this time in a town hall setting to address the problems of hate and intolerance.
These days, Grace Baptist Church in San Jose prepares for its service with a dizzying array of technology, from microphones and cameras to computer servers.READ MORE: COVID: Omicron Variant Found In San Francisco, Are New Travel Rules Looming?
But this communications infrastructure showed its vulnerability last week when a group of young men crashed the church’s virtual Easter Sunday celebration with loud music and an obscene racist rant which went on for five minutes and insulted everyone from African Americans and Latinos to the LGBT and Jewish communities.
Sunday morning, the congregation gathered again to discuss what happened.
“This person came and attacked everybody. I don’t know who they like at this point. They came for everybody, you know?” said Lou Dimes, president of a youth activist group called Black Outreach.
“They were intent on doing harm to us,” said church member Louann Roberts, who struggled to get the hackers off the call. “They were intent on frightening us, intent on disturbing and disrupting and that was their fun. That was how they got their jollies.”
Pamela Emanuel felt the attack actually backfired.READ MORE: A's, Giants Players Locked Out As MLB Owners Vote To Trigger First Work Stoppage Since 1995
“Those words are meaningless, you know?” Emanuel said. “They hold no power because what they have done has created a stronger community.”
As a police officer stood by for physical protection, senior pastor George Oliver said it was up to the congregation to stand up to a rising tide of racism and intolerance.
“The fact is, we need people to no longer keep their silence,” he said. “Their silence is killing us. Their silence is destroying churches and destroying peace.”
The struggle against hate continues and Rev. Oliver said preventing such verbal attacks presents a challenge to people, one that goes far beyond just cutting off some unruly Zoom callers.
“They did what they wanted to do and achieved what they wanted to achieve,” he said. “But the rest of us have a burden as well. What kind of community will we build in the aftermath of it?”MORE NEWS: New COVID Variant 'Omicron' Identified In San Francisco; Here's What You Need To Know
Rev. Oliver says investigators are still trying to determine whether the Easter service intrusion constituted a hate crime. Meanwhile, the hackers have reportedly been identified by Zoom and banned from the site.