Close to 50 people gathered in a vigil outside Fifth Ward aldermanic candidate Carolyn Murray’s house on Jan. 10, after Ms. Murray was the victim of a “Zoom” attack in a candidate’s interview earlier. Submitted photo

Fifth Ward Aldermanic candidate Carolyn Murray said she knew something was amiss not long into her interview with the Democratic Party of Evanston on Jan. 10.

The DPOE has been conducting interviews with candidates running in the upcoming municipal election, using the Zoom videoconferencing system to conduct the talks because of social-distancing constraints.

Ms. Murray was still early into her interview, answering a question about police accountability, when interviewer Greg Andrus had to break off the talk.

During the Zoom broadcast, the DPOE later explained in a statement, “an intruder entered our Zoom event and threatened racial violence, using heinous language, both in the chat and audio and identifying themselves as a Trump supporter. As we have been able to get more details about the racist attack, we have learned that some of the participants at the event were also targeted directly through private messages with racist and specifically anti-Black speech – in addition to Carolyn.”                                                                                                       

Ms. Murray said the intruder used different aliases, moving from private messages to the meeting itself, unmuting to speak over the audio.

She said the intruder also moved from audio to the chat, sending capitalized messages to everyone, using racial slurs, and declaring “Trump 2024, Four More Years,” on some.     

Ms. Murray said she believes some of the messages – threatening violence to her and her family – may have been connected to her activism against gun violence. She has been the organizer of a community gun buyback event and received an invitation from U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky to attend President Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address in recognition of her efforts.                                                                                                    

Within a short time of the incident Sunday, Ms. Murray and close to 50 supporters, including Police Chief Demitrous Cook, gathered in the street outside her house, in a show of solidarity against the Zoom attack. “We aren’t scared; I ain’t scared,” Ms. Murray declared.

Ms. Murray, a retired member of the military, said after that she felt it was important to convey that “it wasn’t just an attack me – it was an attack on us.”

DPOE chair and Committeeman Eamon Kelly was among those joining the group at the vigil. He said he was outraged at what happened on several counts.

“It was a White Supremacist attack on a Black candidate for office, definitely racial in nature,” he said.

In addition, “it was an attack on the Democratic Party,” reflecting the agenda the party has experienced under the Trump administration, he said.

“We are outraged that this occurred,” DPOE said in its statement. “We provided the recording of the event to police, and we will be contacting our local officials to encourage that the incident be investigated and prosecuted.

“We acknowledge the personal and collective trauma that an incident like this causes for all people of color, and the harm it caused Carolyn and the people targeted. After last week’s White Supremacist insurrection at the Capitol, we are hurting and exhausted.”

For future candidate sessions, the party is working “to improve our processes and technology set ups to protect everyone,” the statement said.


Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.