‘Zoom bombers’ force MVC to continue high school field hearing

Commissioners look to potential cybersecurity safeguards to prevent a future incident.

Zoom bombers interrupted discussion of the MVRHS field project before the Martha's Vineyard Commission Thursday night.

Updated 3 pm

The second Martha’s Vineyard Commission public hearing reviewing the high school athletic field project was interrupted Thursday night by several people shouting crass and offensive things, forcing the session to close.

The public hearing was continued until Feb. 18. 

Adam Turner, executive director of the commission, told The Times in a follow-up phone call that the hearing was taped, and over the next few days they will be releasing the recording to the authorities “so they can review it and figure out who is accountable.”

“They are going to have to deal with what they did,” he said.

But Turner said his primary focus is on moving forward with the project review, and making sure that security measures are put in place to prevent another Zoom bombing.

“We have a major project that is being considered, and we lost a whole meeting,” Turner said.

He added that the meeting crowd swelled above 150 people before the incident, and interested individuals and groups signed on from all over the Island and all over the country to speak and hear testimony. 

“What does that do to our ability to consider this project? That, to me, is the more disappointing thing,” he said.

Going forward, the commission will be looking into potential safeguards that allow for rapid intervention if a similar incident occurs.

“We will develop procedures for if this ever happens again — even a person outside the organization who sits in and is an expert in combating this stuff,” Turner said. “We have a major project before us. We need to regroup, do a better job at security, and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The sports complex issue, particularly the synthetic turf field proposed at the high school, has been a contentious issue that’s drawn more than 250 public comments on the MVC website.

Before the Zoom meeting was interrupted, commissioner Jeff Agnoli disclosed that he has a long relationship with the applicant, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, having taught there for “many years.”

Agnoli said he still holds a stipend position as the high school’s GED test administrator. But he said he has “no financial interest in any aspect” of the proposal.

“Despite my relationship with the high school, I believe I can sit in on this application and make a fair and honest decision as to its benefits and detriments,” Agnoli said. He added that he is a new board member of the Vineyard Conservation Society, an organization that has submitted testimony against the installation of synthetic turf at the high school.

Agnoli said he checked with the state Ethics Commission, and they found no conflict of interest in his case.

The initial plan for the hearing was to allow interested groups and members of the public the opportunity to provide testimony, with six members of the Field Fund, an organization advocating for natural grass fields, being allotted one hour in total.

After the Field Fund, interested groups were to provide testimony, followed by members of the public.

“We will continue to have hearings until everyone has had the opportunity to speak,” commissioner Doug Sederholm said.

He noted that testimony regarding the toxicology and chemical testing conducted by experts retained by the commission would not be heard at that time because they want to give every group, including the applicant, ample time to review the results. 

Just as development of regional impact coordinator Alex Elvin was about to give an overview of the proposal, a number of people began saying insulting and profane things, specifically targeting commissioners and those in the meeting with profanity. They drew lines on the screen of Elvin’s presentation. Eventually, the online session was closed, and a new link was sent out to the applicants and those registered to speak.

“We just got Zoom bombed,” Sederholm said. 

Commission chair Joan Malkin said that because the prior Zoom link was forced to close, it would be unfair to reconvene the meeting and continue with regular business.

“We have not notified everyone who was on the call, and people are entitled to join the hearing after it starts,” Malkin said. “I do not see how we can proceed tonight.”

Commissioner Brian Packish said it is clear that having the meeting would violate open meeting law, having not advertised it 48 hours in advance.

Commissioner Ernie Thomas identified the problem with security in public meetings, and wondered whether people could be required to register beforehand. Malkin said the security issue would be looked into for future meetings.

Commissioner Linda Sibley said, “This is tragic. If we could pursue these people legally, I would like us to do so.”

Both the Field Fund and the high school released statements the following day condemning the Zoom bombing.

“We are sorry to report that the meeting was ‘Zoom bombed’ before anyone was able to testify,” the release from the Field Fund states. “Needless to say, it was an awful experience for all.” The release also encourages individuals to lend their voices to the conversation surrounding the project. 

The press release from the high school states, “We are deeply saddened and angered by the very offensive verbal assault and disruption of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission public hearing on the MVRHS athletic fields.”

Additionally, the release says, it is the hope of the high school that the matter is investigated, and the perpetrators are identified and held accountable. 

“One of our core values at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School is community. We value the diverse perspectives of all groups as a part of the process of arriving at a thoughtfully built understanding,” the release states.

Updated with comments from the Field Fund and MVRHS.


  1. Here is the letter I sent to the Executive Director of the MV Commission, Adam Turner:

    Dear Mr. Turner:

    I am requesting that the zoom bombing at tonight’s MVC public hearing for the proposed MVRHS plastic turf field project, be investigated as a criminal offense.

    The zoom bomb didn’t occur until it was time for the The Field Fund to present. That is not by accident-that was an attack on the Field Fund and it’s presentation.

    There are indications that the zoom bombers know participants of the meeting tonight, even referencing one of them by name and indicating they know what his profession is. That was an attack on a specific member of our community.

    The vulgarity with which Lucy Morrison was treated, and the aggressive, angry and vile disruption is both a form of assault, and a form of intimidation.

    The MV Commission must restore credibility by pursuing the identity of the zoom bombers. You have a recording of the session, and all of the computers logged in to that meeting can be identified. You must identify these zoom bombers.

    I am calling the police tomorrow in regard to this situation.

    I expect you and the MV Commission to get this thoroughly and completely investigated in the most transparent way.

    I look forward to your response.
    Sincerely, Freedom Cartwright

  2. This reminds me of the special Town Meeting in WT on this same subject, where an adult–a much-respected educator– refused to recognize that the town moderator had called an end to debate, shouted over him, repeatedly ignored requests to stop speaking, and generally behaved like an oaf. No wonder the kids get the wrong message.

  3. I am embarrassed that some members of our community would insinuate that this was an attack on the field fund. It is unfortunate that we have become a society of all or nothing. Do people really in their souls believe that the applicant would ask people to interrupt a public hearing. The very same people that pulled papers, ran for office to benefit children and put themselves out there for criticism everyday? The same people that conduct all their meetings in public view? Really? Let’s play this game. Maybe it was the “opposition” to the track and field project that is seeking sympathy to their cause? Come on people. We are all better than this!

  4. It’s a signal of white privilege to behave this way. Imagine if POC did this. I’ll eat my hat if these vulgar people are not white. It’s a similar mindset to the white domestic terrorists storming the Capitol, where the white perpetrators are now demanding organic food in jail, and others who took part are getting permission to vacation in Mexico. People who feel emboldened to use these disgusting methods to halt a democratic process must be held accountable for their criminal actions. Doesn’t anyone wonder what and who gave these law breakers such a bright idea?

  5. It is a joke to think that Commissioner Agnoli can be fair and impartial when he’s a member of the school as well as being on a board that has come out with public opinions. This does not give comfort in knowing it will be a fair hearing and he should be recused.

  6. Waste of money. Let’s invest in the school building (stop the water leaks), science and computer coding labs, trades classes, photography labs, renewable energy tech classes, you know, real life job creation type things. How can we justify this amount of debt for the school, with a new field needing replaced every 10 years, when less than HALF the kids participate in sports? Over the next 5 years, we will need to purchase 5 of these fields (they need replaced every 10 years). How is that a good investment? Not to mention the environmental harms of processing and producing plastic. I’m glad there is no crumb rubber. I’m glad some people are helping to offset some of the upfront costs. But long term, this will create a financial burden on our community for decades to come. Do you want to buy a new field every 10 years? Because if this is approved, we all will.

  7. Yesterday (Friday, Feb. 5) the first meeting of West Tisbury’s Diversity Task Force was Zoom-bombed too. It was a much smaller meeting, but someone crashed it and screen-shared a swastika before being ejected. Our police chief was hosting the meeting, so law enforcement is very aware of the intrusion. These particular meetings are bound by the Open Meeting law to be publicized in advance and open to the public, so privacy is not an option. I suspect law enforcement in the six towns and the county will want to compare notes on this, and I hope the island’s IT wizards can come up with ways to keep these meetings both public and safe from harassment.

  8. I’ve been to many in-person public meeting where the audience has to sign in on a sheet of paper before entering with their name and email and/or physical address. I’ve also since then been to zoom meetings where you have to sign in with a name and email. Can’t that be done in these instances? Intruding with swastikas and vulgar verbal attacks seem more than harassament– They seem more like cowardly criminal behaviors that are not unlike hate crimes with an intent to disrupt a legal, democratic process. Surely that is criminal, although I can only imagine what and who has emboldened this idiocy. These vile loons seem think they’re vigilante heroes and patriots, but I hope law enforcement disavows them of their delusions.

Comments are closed.