A neo-Nazi website accused of orchestrating a “terror campaign” of online harassment against a Jewish real estate agent cannot have a lawsuit dismissed on First Amendment grounds, a federal judge ruled last week.
In his ruling denying a motion to have the suit against The Daily Stormer’s publisher dismissed, Judge Dana L. Christensen wrote that the real estate agent, Tanya Gersh, was a private citizen and not a public figure. Christensen also wrote that the publisher, Andrew Anglin, incited his followers to harass her.
The lawsuit claims the coordinated harassment campaign resulted in Gersh’s family receiving more than 700 messages of hate, including death threats and references to the Holocaust.
In refusing the dismiss the suit, the judge wrote that “the Court has thoroughly considered [Anglin’s] free speech arguments and finds that a decision for Anglin at this stage would, at a minimum, be premature.”
According to the New York Times, the lawsuit originates from an incident in 2016 during which Gersh, a real estate agent in the hometown of white supremacist Richard Spencer, told Spencer’s mother Sherry that she should repudiate her son’s views and sell a building she owned there. Legal documents show that his mother initially agreed with her idea but changed her mind and Anglin later incited the Daily Stormer’s readership to harass her, the Times reports.
One of those posts, according to the Washington Post, said:
“Are y’all ready for an old fashioned Troll Storm?” Anglin wrote in a Dec. 16, 2016, post on the Daily Stormer website. The article, titled “Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion—TAKE ACTION!,” was the first of 30 about Gersh on the neo-Nazi site.
A lawyer affiliated with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the case on Gersh’s behalf in 2017, told the Times that the refusal to throw out the lawsuit “underscores what both we and our client have said from the beginning of this case — that online campaigns of hate, threats, and intimidation have no place in a civil society, and enjoy no protection under our Constitution.”
Anglin, whose physical whereabouts have reportedly been unknown for almost two years, has faced two prior lawsuits alleging similar tactics.