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Court rejects neo-Nazi’s free speech defense in SPLC case

A federal judge has rejected neo-Nazi leader Andrew Anglin’s attempt to dismiss an SPLC lawsuit seeking to hold him accountable for orchestrating a campaign of terror against a Jewish woman and her family in Montana.

Anglin claimed in court filings that he was simply exercising his free speech rights when he incited a virtual army of online followers to harass Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent living in Whitefish.

The Gersh family, including Tanya’s 12-year-old son, received hundreds of intimidating and threatening messages, including emails, phone calls and postcards, over a period of months. 

Chief Judge Dana L. Christensen of the U.S. District Court in Montana accepted a magistrate’s earlier recommendation and ruled against Anglin on Nov. 14. The ruling means the case will proceed to trial.

“This important ruling 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,” said David Dinielli, the SPLC attorney leading the case.

The suit accuses Anglin of invading Gersh’s privacy and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. It also outlines how his campaign violated the Montana Anti-Intimidation Act.

Anglin operates a website called the Daily Stormer, which takes its name from the Nazi propaganda sheet Der Stürmer and is the leading white supremacist web forum in the country.

In December 2016, Anglin published dozens of articles urging his followers to launch a “troll storm” targeting Gersh, who he accused of trying to extort money from the mother of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. Gersh had offered to help the woman sell a building in Whitefish after residents of the town planned to protest her son’s activities at the site.

Anglin and Spencer are both prominent leaders of the “alt-right” movement, and Anglin helped promote the deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.

“Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda,” Anglin wrote under the headline “Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion – TAKE ACTION!” The post included Gersh’s contact information. It also included photographs of Gersh, her husband and son. One was altered to include a yellow Star of David with the label “Jude” – an allusion to the emblem the Nazi regime required Jews to wear during World War II.

Anglin launched his campaign with these words: “Let’s Hit Em Up. Are y’all ready for an old fashioned Troll Storm? Because AYO – it’s that time, fam.”

One message received by Gersh included an image of her being sprayed with a green gas, along with the words: Hickory dickory dock, the k--- ran up the clock. The clock struck three and the Internet Nazis trolls gassed the rest of them.

There were also phone calls that consisted only of the sound of gunshots.