Norwalk Common Council members woke up Monday morning to find antisemitic emails in their inboxes.
Last week, they all received antisemitic post cards at their homes.
The correspondences come after antisemitic and racist comments made at the Jan. 16 Council Ordinance Committee meeting by people speaking remotely. Assistant Corporation Counsel Darin Callahan was running the Zoom session and worked to shut them down. Norwalk Police were called.
Last week’s Council meeting also featured a caller making antisemitic remarks; he was shut down and another caller was not allowed to speak.
Norwalk Police seized the post cards as evidence and Norwalk Police Chief Walsh believes there is a connection to the earlier antisemitic and racist comments, according to Norwalk Director of Communications Michelle Woods Matthews.
“We believe this is ongoing cyber and mail harassment against city government officials,” Norwalk Police Chief Walsh said in a statement. “The Norwalk Police Department, with the assistance of the FBI, is actively investigating to determine the identity of the parties responsible for these and the prior acts.”
Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Lisa Shanahan (D-District E) said Monday that she had gotten at least three emails.
“I am not reading these vile emails, especially because there are a lot of attachments and I am worried that my computer will be compromised,” she said.
Shanahan reluctantly stopped public comments Jan. 16 because of the intrusion.
“City Staff who host public Zoom meetings also completed training on how to immediately mute and remove anyone from a meeting making inappropriate comments,” Woods Matthews said.
“This antisemitic and racist barrage has been so ugly,” Majority Leader Nora Niedzielski-Eichner (D-At Large) said. “We have no reason to believe these communications are coming from Norwalk residents, and knowing Norwalk’s long history as a diverse and welcoming place, I don’t think they are. We stand with all our residents, especially our Jewish and Black residents, in rejecting this hatred.”
She referred NoN to comments made by Council President Darlene Young (D-District B) last week.
“But what I need to say to everybody around this table is that we are here to do the business of the City. And no one is going to stop us. It’s the most diverse Council in the city’s history and we should all be proud of that,” Young said Jan. 23. “… But we have to just be diligent and support each other and do what we need to do. And I thank [our IT staff] and the police department and everybody who stepped up very quickly.”
Niedzielski-Eichner said, “I think our Council President really spoke for all of us.”
“I received both emails and a hateful postcard in the mail,” said Council Minority Leader Heather Dunn (I-District D). “It has not made me feel personally unsafe here in Norwalk as a direct result, but I do worry that those involved have been emboldened to express that level of hate due to the current polarized political environment. My fear is that it will only get worse.”
“There is no doubt that the various acts of antisemitism and racism over the last couple weeks have been disturbing and unwelcome,” Council member Josh Goldstein (D-At Large) said. “What these people have said and written is repugnant and gross. Obviously, as a Jewish-American, it has been distressing to be a recipient of such unquestionably virulent antisemitic statements and conspiracies.
“Yet, I am deeply comforted to live in a community where people of all faiths are welcome,” he continued. “I have received nothing but support from Mayor Rilling, my colleagues, our state delegation, and community members. I am continually grateful to our city staff and the Norwalk Police Department for their professionalism and efforts to investigate and respond to these acts of hate. And none of this has stopped me or my colleagues from doing our work.”
“The City of Norwalk unequivocally condemns these ongoing ignorant, racist, anti-Semitic incidents and the individuals behind these appalling acts,” Mayor Rilling said in a statement. “Their attempt to disrupt government services through obscene and hateful language will not deter us from carrying out city business. Law enforcement is working tirelessly to investigate this matter, and City staff have already been trained on new ways to remove anyone voicing inappropriate rhetoric at a public meeting.”
Updated, 2:10 p.m.: Information added.