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Weekend Read: Neo-Nazi leader must pay more than $14 million in damages

A federal judge has ruled in an SPLC lawsuit that neo-Nazi leader Andrew Anglin must pay more than $14 million in damages for using his website to launch an antisemitic campaign of terror against a Jewish woman and her family.

The judgment on Thursday came just five days after the mass killing of 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso – the latest terror attack inspired by a global white nationalist movement inspired by the idea that “elites” in Western countries are working to “replace” white people with immigrants and other people of color.

And it came just days before the two-year anniversary, on Aug. 11-12, of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Anglin, the founder of the web forum Daily Stormer, was a major promoter of that rally.

“This ruling is a major victory against hate and sends a powerful message to extremists like Andrew Anglin who use their internet platforms as weapons of intimidation and harassment,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director. “The judgment confirms that those who would do so will pay a heavy price for the harm they inflict.”

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen adopted an earlier recommendation made by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch after Anglin refused to show up for court proceedings.

Though Anglin’s current whereabouts are unknown, Dinielli said, “We will go to the ends of the Earth to collect the judgment on behalf of our client, Tanya Gersh, whether it’s cash, assets or intellectual property.”

As the SPLC has documented, numerous white nationalist terrorists – including Dylann Roof, the killer of nine African Americans in Charleston, S.C., four years ago – have been radicalized online.

Anglin, a man who calls President Trump “Our Glorious Leader,” acknowledged last year that he uses his website to indoctrinate children as young as 10 into neo-Nazi ideology. “My site is mainly designed to target children,” he told an interviewer.

The Daily Stormer, which has established 22 physical chapters in the United States in addition to its online presence, has been designated a hate group by the SPLC. It takes its name from the Nazi propaganda sheet known as Der Stürmer. After the 2016 presidential election, Anglin used it to encourage his followers to harass Muslims and “any foreigners you see.” He wrote, “We want these people to feel unwanted. We want them to feel that everything around them is against them. And we want them to be afraid."

The SPLC, with the law firm of Morrison, Sherwood, Wilson, & Deola, sued Anglin on behalf of Gersh, a real estate agent in Whitefish, Montana, and her family in April 2017.

Anglin published dozens of articles urging his followers to launch a “troll storm” against Gersh, falsely accusing her of trying to extort money from the mother of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer.

“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.

Responding to his call, Anglin’s followers sent Gersh, along with her husband and son, who was 12 at the time, more than 700 threatening emails, letters, texts, phone calls and other messages between December 2016 and April 2017. Among them:

Thanks for demonstrating why your race needs to be collectively ovened.

You have no idea what you are doing, six million are only the beginning.

We are going to keep track of you for the rest of your life.

You will be driven to the brink of suicide & We will be there to take pleasure in your pain & eventual end.

Gersh’s son received a tweet with the image of an open oven and the message: psst kid, theres a free Xbox One inside this oven.

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

The campaign escalated to the point that Anglin planned an armed march in Whitefish that he threatened would end at Gersh’s home. He promoted the march, which never materialized, with an image that superimposed Gersh, her son and two other Jewish residents on a picture of the front gate of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

This week, Gersh said the court ruling represents a victory against hate.

“This win isn’t just for me, my family and my community, it’s for everyone who has been harassed, terrorized and bullied,” she said. “With the strong support of my family, the Whitefish community, the people of Montana and the Jewish community around the world, I had the strength to stand up against Andrew Anglin, and I defeated him and his hatred.

“Even though I don’t like to admit that what he did broke a part of me, I am now a stronger person for it. Don’t be afraid to take a stand against hatred and don’t let hateful people define who you are. We will not let them win.”

Anglin claimed his actions were protected by the First Amendment, but the court earlier rejected that claim. 

During an evidentiary hearing on July 11, the SPLC presented its arguments on damages and emotional distress through witnesses, including Gersh, her husband and one of her therapists. The evidence detailed how the attacks and threats on Gersh, her family and the Whitefish community have had an extreme and life-changing impact on all of their lives. 

Over the past two and a half years, Gersh experienced panic attacks and has been afraid to answer the phone. At times, she still goes to bed in tears and wakes up crying without explanation. She also feels anxiety in crowds and has undergone therapy for the harm inflicted by Anglin and his followers.

In his recommendation, which was adopted in full by Christensen, Lynch recommended that Anglin pay approximately $4 million in compensatory damages for economic and noneconomic losses, plus $10 million in punitive damages “to punish Anglin and deter him from engaging in such conduct in the future.”

The court also ordered Anglin to remove blog posts and online images encouraging the harassment campaign.

This case is just one of many SPLC victories against hate groups. We’ve decimated 10 of the country’s most notorious hate groups with crushing court judgments.

Right now, we’re suing two groups in Arizona whose members are harassing pastors and church volunteers who are providing food, clothing, medical care, transportation and temporary housing to immigrants released from ICE custody.

Across the country, we’re tracking 1,020 hate groups, a record number and urging Congress to take action.

To fight the spread of hate online, we’re successfully pressuring Silicon Valley companies to cut off services that help extremists raise money, spread radicalizing propaganda and incubate future terrorists.

We’re committed to combating the hate spread by people like Andrew Anglin and will continue to use the courts and every other tool at our disposal to defeat the serious threat posed to our nation by the white nationalist movement and its toxic ideology.

The Editors

P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week:

Explore our Hate Map—In 2018, we tracked 1,020 hate groups across the U.S.

Learn more about Tanya Gersh’s case. 

Read the latest press release about Tanya’s case.