Montana resident Tanya Gersh has been the target of Andrew Anglin and his neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer since December 2016. It was that month that Anglin called on his readers to harass Gersh. The Washington Post reports that since then Gersh has received hundreds of emails, phone calls, voice mail messages, social media posts, and texts threatening her and her family. Southern Law Poverty Center attorney J. Richard Cohen filed a lawsuit against Anglin that he in turn requested be dismissed on the grounds that it violated his First Amendment rights and that he could not be held responsible for the actions of his readers. Montana federal judge Dana L. Christensen has denied his request, saying that, “Anglin exploited the prejudices widely held among his readers to specifically target one individual,” something he said is not protected by the First Amendment.
Well-known alt-right figure Richard Spencer posted a video of himself in 2016 that showed him shouting, “Hail Trump!” at a white nationalist convention attended by almost 300 people. This was followed by the Nazi salute by those in attendance. Following the release of that video, his mother Sherry Spencer contacted Tanya Gersh, who was a real estate agent at the time, about selling her home because of protests in her area against her son. Court filings indicate that she later decided not to sell her home and later published a post on Medium in which she said that Gersh had extorted and threatened her and attacked the views of her son. That’s when Anglin stepped in, urging readers to engage in “an old fashioned Troll Storm” in a Daily Stormer post titled “Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion.” Thirty more similar posts followed. He also released the phone numbers and addresses of Gersh as well as her friends and family online.
Gersh claims that the harassment that ensued pushed her to the brink of suicide. Cohen described Daily Stormer as a modern-day Ku Klux Klan.
“In the old days, maybe the Klan would burn a cross on your lawn to intimidate you. Nowadays neo-Nazis have other ways to harass and intimidate.”
David Dinielli is also an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. He said that Gersh’s 12-year-old son was the target of violent communications including one in which a Twitter user suggested that he look inside an oven for a free Xbox, in reference to the gas chambers used in the Holocaust. Anglin posted an image that had the faces of Gersh and her son superimposed on a photograph of Auschwitz. By the spring of 2017, the Gersh family received over 700 threats. Dinielli commented on Judge Christensen’s decision.
“There is no First Amendment right to call upon hundreds of thousands of readers to launch a public attack on a private individual with the intent of ruining her life. That’s simply not something our Constitution protects.”