Participants of a virtual meeting hosted by an Asian student organization at the University of Toronto say it was interrupted by racist threats and video of a man holding a machine gun.
Organizers say more than 90 people attended the meeting Monday, which was hosted by the Asian Student Alliance to support students who were harmed by another “racist incident” last week at the University of Toronto’s Grad House, where hell bank notes in red envelopes were distributed for Lunar New Year.
About 45 minutes into the meeting held on Zoom, participants reported seeing a slew of violent and racist message targeted towards Chinese people. Shortly after, a man appeared on video.
“A big machine gun was pointing towards the Zoom lens,” recalled associate professor Mary Reid, who organized the meeting. “I was shaking.”
“There was a white man turned on his camera and showed off his machine gun,” another witness told Global News out of fear for her safety. She did not want to be identified due to fear for her safety.
“That machine gun was huge. It was like almost half of me, that tall.”
The witness says she wanted to capture the man’s image, but froze. “Our brains said you need to take this screenshot to record this man. But we just forgot to move. We just didn’t know how to move because everyone was terrified.”
The violent video only lasted a few seconds, but the shock and trauma has lingered. The Asian Student Alliance has been organizing therapy and counselling for those affected.
“It’s a shame, because they were re-traumatized,” said Reid. “I haven’t slept because I was thinking, is this a threat targeted towards me, because I organized it and I facilitated it? How about at Grad House? Is their safety jeopardized? Who is this person are they nearby?”
A University of Toronto spokesperson tells Global News Campus police and Toronto police have been contacted.
“The University of Toronto is deeply concerned about this violent and racist act. We are supporting this student group and continuing to promote the use of appropriate security measures for Zoom meetings and events, particularly those open to members of the public,” the spokesperson said.
“We stand in solidarity with our Asian community, and all who were impacted by this hateful attack. We are appalled that such incidents occur in our community spaces. We emphatically condemn anti-Asian discrimination and racism, and all forms of hate and racial violence.”
Students experiencing trauma can access the following resources:
• Health and Wellness Centre
• My SSP (support available 24/7/365)
• Counselling Services
• APHD Student Resource Hub