Tanya Gersh has faced anti-Semitic harassment since late 2016—calls, tweets, emails, and texts demeaning her and saying she was going to die—upending the once-peaceful life she had in a quaint town in the US state of Montana.
The barrage began soon after Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin shared Gersh’s contact information on his neo-Nazi website and told his followers to go after her.“Let’s hit ‘em up,” he posted. “Are y’all ready for an old-fashioned Troll Storm?”
Anglin’s call to arms came after Gersh was involved in a neighbourly dispute with the mother of white supremacist Richard Spencer following news that a public protest was planned at a building owned by Sherry Spencer.
According to BuzzFeed News, Anglin also posted an article on his site titled “Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion—TAKE ACTION!” in which the Anglin wrote, “If you’re in the area, maybe you should stop by and tell her in person what you think of her actions,” but added that the action shouldn’t be violent.
On Monday, federal judge Jeremiah C. Lynch ruled that Anglin should pay more than $4 million (£3.2 million) in compensatory damages and $10 million (£8 million) in punitive damages, which is the maximum under Montana state law, reports NBC News. Lynch stated that Anglin should get the maximum punishment due to “the particularly egregious and reprehensible nature of Anglin’s conduct.” Lynch’s ruling must still be approved by a US district judge.
According to NBC News, Lynch also called for a permanent injunction that would force Anglin to take down all content related to Gersh, as “the atrocious conduct directed at Gersh and her family has not entirely abated.” As of Monday morning, the Daily Stormer still still hosted material about Gersh.
Anglin seems to be in hiding and did not appear for a deposition in April. At the time, Anglin’s former lawyer Marc Randazza told the Missoulian his relationship with Anglin had “broken down.”
“When a federal judge tells you to do something and you refuse, you put your lawyer in a difficult position.” Randazza told the Missoulian. “My client made the decision years ago he was going to expatriate himself and never return.”
Gersh was represented in part by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the federal suit in 2017. According to SPLC, Gersh and her family received more than 700 messages harassing them before the group filed the complaint. In a release published following Lynch’s ruling, SPLC wrote that Anglin planned an armed march that was supposed to end at Gersh’s house. The march never took place but Anglin reportedly advertised the event with an image of Gersh and her son superimposed onto a photo of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
“This lawsuit has always been about stopping others from enduring the terror I continue to live through at the hands of a neo-Nazi and his followers, and I wanted to make sure that this never happens to anyone else,” Gersh said in a statement shared by SPLC. “A clear message has been sent to Anglin and other extremists: No one should be terrorised for simply being who they are, and no one should ever be afraid for being who they are.”
Featured image: AP