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Judge rules neo-Nazi publisher has no First Amendment right to harassment
A federal judge in Montana ruled this week that the First Amendment does not shield the publisher of a neo-Nazi site from being sued after calling for a "terror campaign" of harassment against a Jewish woman, The New York Times reports.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen on Wednesday ruled that real estate agent Tanya Gersh of Whitefish, Mont., is a private citizen and that Andrew Anglin, publisher of the Daily Stormer, incited his followers to harass Gersh with a "troll storm" that led to a slew of anti-Semitic threats against her and her family.
The lawsuit stems from a series of events that began in 2016 when the neo-Nazi site published articles attacking Gersh for her interactions with Sherry Spencer, the mother of white supremacist leader Richard Spencer.
Gersh said she had talked to Sherry Spencer about the potential sale of a building Spencer owned in Whitefish around the same time protesters were considering a demonstration in the town to protest against white supremacy.
Sherry Spencer allegedly agreed to sell the building before changing course and publishing a blog post asserting Gersh attempted to threaten her to sell the building as a way to force her out of town.
Shortly after the blog post, Anglin began publishing his own stories calling on his followers to harass her and her family, according to the Times.
"Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda to attack and harm the mother of someone whom they disagree with," Anglin reportedly wrote in one of the posts.
He later argued that the First Amendment protects him from being sued by Gersh over the articles and that he shouldn't be held responsible for the actions of his followers.
David Dinielli, a lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center - which filed a lawsuit on Gersh's behalf in spring 2017 - said in a statement to the Times that the judge's 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."