The Southern Poverty Law Center on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Montana woman who says the founder of a prominent neo-Nazi website directed his followers to carry out a months-long, anti-Semitic harassment campaign against her and her family.
Andrew Anglin, the white nationalist founder of the Daily Stormer, is accused of spearheading a wave of threats against Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent in Whitefish, Montana. In a series of posts this winter, Anglin’s site accused Gersh of attempting to extort money from the mother of prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer, who lives in the small ski resort town and owns a building there.
Anglin published phone numbers, email addresses and business addresses for many of the town’s Jewish residents, who he said were trying to shame Spencer’s mother because of her son’s views.
According to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Montana, Gersh, her husband, and her two young sons received over 700 harassing messages since Anglin began writing about her, including death threats and graphic images. It accuses Anglin of invading Gersh’s privacy, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, and violating Montana’s Anti-Intimidation Act.
In a tearful Tuesday press call organized by the SPLC, Gersh recalled answering phone calls to hear only gun shots ringing out on the other end of the line. She said the calls, emails and text messages came at all hours of the night, and often featured photographs of her and her 12-year-old son photoshopped onto the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp or inside of ovens. Gersh said she was urged to commit suicide, told she should have “died in the Holocaust with the rest,” and encouraged to leave the state because there was “only one place this road ends.”
“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Gersh said before bursting into sobs.
“It really broke us,” she added later.
Anglin did not immediately respond Tuesday to TPM’s request for comment.
His campaign began in December 2016, after Gersh had agreed to help Sherry Spencer sell the mixed-used commercial building she owned in Whitefish over concerns it would be a target for protest because of her son’s open white nationalist views. Spencer then changed her mind and published a post on Medium accusing Gersh of threatening and harassing her. The lawsuit claims that “on belief and information,” the blog post was actually ghostwritten by Richard Spencer.
“Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda,” Anglin wrote in his first post about Gersh, in which he shared her contact information.
He then led a months-long online push to draw hundreds of armed white nationalists to Whitefish to rally against Gersh. That effort fell apart in mid-January after the Daily Stormer failed to submit a proper event permit and pay a $125 fee the town charges to hold parades.
Gersh is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the suit. She said on the Tuesday call that she had to leave her job because she can’t risk exposing her clients to harassment and has suffered severe health problems over the ordeal. Most nights, she said, she goes to sleep crying, and her hair is falling out. Gersh said she sees a trauma therapist twice a week to address anxiety she’d never experienced before.
“My life is forever changed and my sense of safety is forever changed,” she said.
As the SPLC noted in announcing the suit, other readers of the Daily Stormer have been convicted or accused of atrocious hate crimes. Dylann Roof, who killed nine black parishioners at a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015, posted on the site, and James Jackson, a regular reader, was charged with murder and terrorism last month after allegedly traveling to New York City to kill black men.
Read the SPLC’s lawsuit below:
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