The founder of a neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, has been hit with a federal lawsuit charging he intimidated and harassed a Jewish woman, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced on Tuesday.
The SPLC, an Alabama-based group that tracks extremism and hate groups in the U.S, said the lawsuit was filed by Tanya Gersh, a Whitefish, Montana-based woman who said her life was changed by the hate and abuse directed at her and her family by Andrew Anglin and his followers. The lawsuit has been filed in Montana.
“The complaint alleges that Tanya has been the victim of a vicious and relentless campaign of intimidation and harassment orchestrated by Andrew Anglin,” Richard Cohen, the SPLC president, said during a press call about the lawsuit on Tuesday. He said Anglin’s alleged campaign against Gersh resulted in more than 700 “incredibly vile” emails, phone calls, text messages and letters. The attacks have also been directed at her 12-year-old son and husband, Cohen said, and they are ongoing.
Gersh, a real estate agent who said she has stopped working because of the alleged harassment, claims she was targeted by Anglin after she had a dispute with Sherry Spencer—whose son, Richard Spencer, is a white supremacist figure best known for shouting “Hail Trump” at a post-election gathering in Washington, and for a viral video showing him being punched.
Cohen said Sherry Spencer reached out to Gersh for help selling a commercial building she owned in Whitefish and asked for advice on how to distance herself from son’s activities after people started talking about boycotting the building, believing she was supporting her son’s activities through the rent she was receiving from the property. “For some reason, Sherry had a change of heart and later attacked Tanya in an article in Medium in December. It was then that Andrew Anglin launched his troll storm, complete with pictures of Tanya and her son superimposed on pictures of Auschwitz,” said Cohen. On December 16, Anglin put out a call on the Daily Stormer for “an old fashioned Troll Storm” against Gersh, one that included contact details for Gersh and her family members and colleagues.
“My family is devoutly Jewish and I have never, ever encountered anti-Semitism before Andrew Anglin launched this troll storm against us,” Gersh said during the press call on Monday. “Starting this summer, we’ve received hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of threatening, hateful, harassing anti-Semitic communications from Anglin’s followers at all hours of the day and night.”
She added: “I once answered the phone and all I heard were gunshots. I took another call and they said, ‘You really should have died in the Holocaust with the rest of your people. This is how we keep the Holocaust alive forever. We can bury you without touching you.'”
Gersh said she also received death threats and “was told I would be driven to the brink of suicide.”
“There were endless references to being thrown in the oven, of being gassed. There were graphic images to go along with these words. We didn’t know if they would physically come after us and we still don’t,” she said. “I have never been so scared in my entire life.”
Gersh, who said she attends trauma therapy twice a week, added: “I’m filing this lawsuit because Andrew Anglin and his white nationalist followers have terrorized me and my family for months and my life is forever changed and my sense of safety is forever changed. I want to stand up and show that these acts of hatred cannot be permitted. This is terrorism.”
Anglin, who is originally from Ohio, had not responded to the lawsuit via his website or in any other manner apparent as of press time.
Earlier this year, the SPLC released a report that found a nearly 200 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate groups in the U.S. between 2015 and 2016, and it recorded nearly 900 reports of hate incidents in the 10 days after the election of President Donald Trump.
More from Newsweek