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DES MOINES, Iowa — A Zoom event held by Black Iowa lawmakers Friday evening turned ugly when an unknown group targeted the legislators with racist words and images, according to the people on the call.

The event, organized in part by Iowa Democratic Party Black Caucus Chair Al Womble, was virtually attended by a sizable number of Black Iowa lawmakers. According to Womble’s account, the trouble began during a presentation by State Rep. Phyllis Thede of Bettendorf.

“They were using inappropriate language, using the N-word, attempting to draw swastikas on the screen,” Womble said. “They attempted to basically shut down the meeting and terrorize the people who were on the meeting.”

Among the attendees was Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn, who also represents Ames in the Iowa House of Representatives. In a statement, he said:

“What happened last night was an appalling attempt to intimidate and silence Black voices in Iowa. Unfortunately, these despicable experiences of harassment are far too common for Black Iowans.”

Rep. Ross Wilburn, Iowa Democratic Party Chair

A similar incident happened in Iowa last year, when State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad was targeted with racist language during a legislative forum on Zoom.

Womble turned over the video of the incident to the West Des Moines Police Department, which told WHO 13 News it is in the early stages of the investigation.

Womble hopes the situation reminds Iowans to confront racism and racist language instead of ignoring it.

“You don’t fix a leaky roof by never talking about the leaky roof. You have to discuss and make sure you have plans to handle that,” Womble said. “I’m not going to let my state turn into this sort of ugly bigotry, racism, and intimidation. I’m going to stand up and make sure that we stomp this out.”