A non-profit organization known for litigating discrimination lawsuits filed a claim against the publisher of one of the nation's leading alt-right websites for its "vicious and relentless campaign of intimidation and harassment" against a client on Tuesday.
The lawsuit alleges that Andrew Anglin, publisher of The Daily Stormer, "launched a troll storm" against Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real-estate agent from Montana, after publishing Gersh's contact information that eventually resulted in "vile" emails, text messages, voicemails, and letters to Gersh's family, including her 12-year-old son.
"Please call her and tell her what you think," wrote Anglin. "And hey — if you’re in the area, maybe you should stop by and tell her in person what you think of her actions."
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), contends that his client received over 700 messages, some of them death threats, after Anglin encouraged readers to "take action" against Gersh. Other allegations include pictures on the website of Gersh and her son that were superimposed with images of Auschwitz — a German Nazi concentration camp from World War II — and a disturbing Twitter message: "psst, kid, there's a free Xbox One inside this oven."
The charges against Anglin include invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress, and the violation of the Montana Anti-Intimidation Act — a law enacted to "address the growing problem of harassing and threatening behavior being undertaken by extremist individuals and groups in Montana." Each count carries a potential $75,000 penalty, according to The New York Times.
"Cyber hate in our country is a growing problem and it's incredibly ugly," said Cohen in a conference call on Tuesday. "The anonymity ... allows people to hide and harass others without fear of consequences. In the case that we're filing today, we hope to change that — we intend to send a message."
Separately, the court documents show that in 2016, Sherry Spencer — mother of the leading alt-right figure Richard Spencer — ran into problems while trying to sell a property in Whitefish, Montana. Spencer sought Gersh's help with the sale, but it ultimately went south. It was not immediately clear why the deal fell through.
Spencer allegedly blamed Gersh and "published a blog post ... in which she accused Ms. Gersh of threatening and harassing her into agreeing to sell the Lupfer Avenue property," according to The Times. Anglin allegedly followed suit with negative remarks toward Gersh.
Cohen said Anglin may attempt to limit his liability by pointing out that he included the following disclaimer in online postings that revealed Gersh's phone number and address: "NO VIOLENCE OR THREATS OF VIOLENCE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE TO THAT."
However, Cohen said he does not believe Anglin's argument holds merit. "No one would take that seriously," he said to The Daily Beast. "You can’t encourage people to harass and attack someone and say 'keep it clean' and pretend as if you have no responsibly for it."
"Our case is one about harassment and assault," Cohen added. "These actions have put Tanya in fear for her life, and that’s what they were intended to do."
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