CRIME

Top Neo-Nazi Faces Lawsuit On Behalf Of His Troll Army

Andrew Anglin, the publisher of the neo-Nazi "Daily Stormer" blog, just got served

CRIME
Apr 18, 2017 at 1:14 PM ET

A Montana woman who was terrorized by neo-Nazis for months filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the man she claims launched the “troll storm” against her: Andrew Anglin, the white supremacist publisher of the Daily Stormer blog, one of the most widely read neo-Nazi websites in the world.

Tanya Gersh, of the small town of Whitefish, claims in her lawsuit that she received more than 700 harassing, anti-Semitic emails, phone calls, and other messages from members of Anglin’s “troll army” after Anglin encouraged his followers to terrorize Gersh, her husband, and her 12-year-old son, starting in December. Additionally, Anglin tried — and failed — to organize an armed neo-Nazi march through Whitefish, which terrified the small town’s residents.

“Andrew Anglin and his ‘troll army’ have attacked me and my family at our very core,” Gersh, who is Jewish, said during a tearful press conference Tuesday. She went on to say that the torment has caused her to lose sleep, her hair, and that she often wakes up crying.

Anglin launched his offensive after he claimed Gersh attempted to “extort” money from the mother of Richard Spencer, the de-facto leader of the “alt-right” movement. Spencer’s mother owns rental property in Whitefish, and community members — led by Gersh — started pressuring her to sell it because of her son’s newfound fame as the leader of a prominent white supremacist movement, Anglin claimed in December.

“Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda,” Anglin wrote on his blog under the headline “Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion – TAKE ACTION!” In the post, Anglin included photos of Gersh and her family, as well as her contact information.

Anglin did not respond to our request for comment.

After Anglin’s call to arms, Gersh claims she was terrorized for months, including phone calls that were nothing but gunshots, and messages talking about putting Gersh and her family in ovens and gas chambers, and other anti-Semitic threats.

“Andrew Anglin knew he had an online army primed to attack with the click of a mouse,” said Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organizations that tracks extremists like Anglin. “We intend to hold him accountable for the suffering he has caused Ms. Gersh and to send a strong message to those who use their online platforms as weapons of intimidation.”

As his trolls tormented Gersh, the lawsuit claims, Anglin continued to egg them on by posting no less than 30 blog posts encouraging his followers to continue harassing Gersh and raising hell in Whitefish. In late December, Anglin called for the next phase of “Operation Whitefish,” and extended his call to “take action.”

“For the next phase of our plan…we are planning an armed protest in Whitefish,” Anglin wrote in a blog post published Thursday. “Montana has extremely liberal open carry laws, so my lawyer is telling me we can easily march through the center of the town carrying high-powered rifles.

“I myself am planning on being there to lead the protest,” he continued.

The march never happened.

The dustup in Whitefish, as we’ve previously reported, came on the heels of a highly publicized “alt-right” conference in Washington DC, where Spencer — who until then had steered clear of openly acknowledging the neo-Nazi element of the “alt-right” — gave an impassioned speech about the future of the movement that concluded with several of those in attendance giving Nazi salutes as Spencer yelled “hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

The speech — more specifically, the Nazi salutes — made national headlines. As Spencer’s profile grew, so did criticism of his movement. And people in Whitefish, where his parents live and where he spends time, took notice. As Spencer continued to make headlines, Gersh, a realtor in the town with ties the activist group Love Lives Here, began pressuring Spencer’s mother to sell her building due to the bad publicity her son’s ties to the town had created.

In a letter published by Medium, Sherry Spencer outlined the “terrible threats” made by the realtor and others. “[O]ur building and the retail tenants have been targeted by some in the Flathead community because of Richard and the National Policy Institute,” she wrote in the letter. (Flathead is the county where Whitefish is located.) She notes that she has received death threats, writing of her and her tenants: “We, too, are victims, having no role in any of the events that have unfolded recently.”

This is not the first time Anglin has urged his followers to harass and intimidate people who don’t fall in line with his white supremacist ideology — online trolling is a staple of his juvenile brand of the “alt-right” movement. In fact, his website often encourages people to harass me and several other members of the media to the point that the Anti-Defamation League, another civil rights advocacy group, convened a task force made up of journalists, law enforcement officials, academic scholars, and tech leaders to address the Anglin-inspired attacks on journalists.

During Tuesday’s press conference, reporters questioned whether Anglin’s “troll storm” is protected by the First Amendment — in his rants, Anglin always claims not to advocate violence, a claim the SPLC wrote off as his way of attempting to protect himself from lawsuits or even criminal charges. The SPLC said that in their view — and in the view of several attorneys who’ve analyzed the suit — Gersh has a solid case against the neo-Nazi publisher since his campaign violated the Montana Anti-Intimidation Act, which is aimed at preventing the type of cyber-bullying Gersh claims to have endured.

The damages sought by Gersh and her attorneys are unspecified, but it seems that they’ll have trouble squeezing a dime out of Anglin, who frequently hits up his followers for money claiming that he barely has enough to keep his website running. As we reported in February, he claimed to have his first “corporate sponsor.” It turned out to be nothing more than an electrician in Australia.

It’s unclear whether Anglin will face any criminal charges for his campaign against Gersh, but the SPLC said federal criminal charges are possible.

“I know I’m not the only person Andrew Anglin has victimized,” Gersh said. She added that “this is terrorism, and I want the other victims to know they’re not alone.”