US federal judge to neo-Nazis: 1st Amendment does not cover threats

The Daily Stormer, which orchestrated hundreds of threats to a Jewish realtor, cannot hide behind the Constitution’s protection of free speech, a judge ruled.

B  Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A federal judge on Wednesday denied the motion of a publisher of a neo-Nazi website to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him by a Jewish woman who says that he urged hundreds of thousands of readers to harass her, her family and even her friends.

In mid-December 2016, Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real-estate agent in Whitefish, Montana, began receiving dozens of threatening emails and calls in what is known as a “troll storm.” Andrew Anglin, publisher of the alt-right Daily Stormer, had specifically called for the abuse in a post on his site as well as supplying her contact information.

He even published her 12-year-old son’s Twitter handle, she told The Guardian in an interview last year.

Anglin said he was furious over Gersh’s pressure on the mother of White Supremacist Richard Spencer to sell a property in their shared hometown. Gersh’s version differs.

Spencer, a well-known neo-Nazi, had hosted a post-election conference in Washington in which he shouted, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” The event, according to Gersh, roiled the town, which depends heavily on tourism, adding that such incidents give it a bad image.

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Gersh approached Spencer’s mother, a decision that the agent claimed had led to cordial discussions. But the senior Spencer then wrote an article for the website that told what Gersh described as “a twisted version” of their interactions.

According to the article, Gersh, a person with “links” to the Montana Human Rights Network, threatened to bring 200 protestors and national media outside Spencer’s property unless she sold it, gave the Network part of the proceeds and denounced her neo-Nazi son.

This allegation led to Anglin’s post as well as several other articles on the site in which, the court document notes, the publisher “drew heavily on crude ethnic stereotypes, painting Gersh as acting in furtherance of a perceived Jewish agenda and using Holocaust imagery and rhetoric.”

The more-than-700 messages that Gersh subsequently received were not only ugly, but scary, she said.

“You are a disgusting, vile Jew … This is OUR country: you’re merely living here (for now),” one person wrote. A caller said, “You should have died in the Holocaust with the rest of your people.”

But the most frightening call of all, Gersh told the Washington Post, consisted only of the sound of gunshots being fired.

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After the lawsuit was filed against Anglin, with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017, the neo-Nazi tried claiming that the First Amendment protects the speech at issue, especially since it involved a “public figure,” in reference to Gersh.

Judge Dana L. Christensen denied the motion to dismiss, saying that Gersh is a private citizen, not a public figure, and that “a decision for Anglin at this stage would, at a minimum, be premature.”