On August 5, streamer and activist Clara "Keffals" Sorrenti awoke with a gun in her face. Her home was being raided by police in response to a threatening email that she didn't send. Someone had swatted her.
The attack is connected to a sustained harassment campaign against the streamer, which last month saw anti-trans trolls abuse Twitch's reporting system to get her suspended from the platform for 28 days (opens in new tab).
The London police (in the Canadian province of Ontario) told Sorrenti that an email had been received by all of the city's councillors at 6 am that day. In it, a person claiming to be Sorrenti, who is a trans woman, announced that she had obtained a gun, killed her mother, and planned to go to City Hall and "shoot every cisgender person" in sight. Although Sorrenti doesn't know who impersonated her in the hoax email, she tells PC Gamer that she believes the information used in the swatting "came from the same community" that had been abusing Twitch's reporting system.
Sorrenti's family had previously contacted the London Police Service about being put on a "no-swatting" list, but were treated like they were "wearing tinfoil hats," she says. Despite that attempt to warn the authorities about the possibility of a swatting attempt, the email was taken seriously and police arrived at her home fully armed, with a warrant to search for firearms, phones, and computers.
Although police found her mother unharmed and no firearms in the house, Sorrenti says they seized phones and computers belonging to both her and her partner. The confiscations left them both "functionally unemployed," she says, and necessitated spending "thousands of dollars" replacing the electronics, which are still held by the police.
On August 5th, I was woken up with an assault rifle pointed at me and arrested for a crime I didn't commit. I need your help. Please share this video widelyhttps://t.co/URNsfyrSQcAugust 9, 2022
In her account of her arrest, Sorrenti states that her treatment by London police was persistently transphobic. The email which triggered the raid referred to Sorrenti both by her real name and her dead name—the name she was assigned at birth—but police referred to her and booked her solely by the latter. When speaking with Sorrenti's mother, police continually referred to Sorrenti as her "son". The use of her dead name in the email successfully leveraged "prejudice that many police have towards transgender people," she said.
"Instead of the police helping me, they terrorized me and my loved ones," Sorrenti said in a statement about her arrest. "They victimized me for being the victim of a hate crime."
In a statement sent to PC Gamer and published online (opens in new tab), London police service chief Steve Williams acknowledged that officers did not use Sorrenti's correct name and gender, and said that the incident is being reviewed.
Sorrenti was eventually released without charge, but says she remains a suspect in the police investigation. The London Police Service declined to comment further on the incident.
"As the investigation is active and ongoing, there is nothing additional that we can share at this time," a London Police Service spokesperson told PC Gamer.
Because she no longer feels safe in her home, Sorrenti started a GoFundMe campaign (opens in new tab) to finance a move to a new home and create a legal fund to "seek justice." At time of writing, she had received donations sufficient to fund the move, and was putting subsequent donations towards legal fees.
"The support has been overwhelming," Sorrenti told PC Gamer, "I feel like everyone came together on this to support me because they realized how horrible of an injustice this is, even people who do not watch my content and personally dislike me".
Sorrenti had only been unbanned from Twitch (opens in new tab) on August 2, three days before her arrest by London police. Although she did a bit of streaming in those few days, she is not sure when she will return again.
"The reason that there aren't a lot of very high-profile trans content creators is because they get doxed, swatted, and harassed off the internet," Sorrenti said. "If you want to see trans people thrive in these online spaces, you need to show them support when things get rough".