This week, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Tanya Gersh, a Jewish mother and business owner from Whitefish, Mont., who was the main target of a vicious anti-Semitic “troll storm” launched by neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin this past December.Background: The drama began after Sherry Spencer, mother of well-known white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, authored a blog post claiming that Gersh, a real estate agent, had tried to pressure her to sell a building she owned in downtown Whitefish and publicly denounce her son’s political views or risk drawing protesters to her property. (Gersh and the SPLC describe a very different sequence of events in their complaint.) Anglin repeated Sherry Spencer’s claims on his neo-Nazi website, Daily Stormer, and urged followers to “take action” against Gersh and other members of the small Jewish community in Whitefish, a city of approximately 7,000.Though Anglin himself never engaged directly with Gersh, the SPLC argues that he is responsible for the 700-plus harassing emails, tweets, Facebook posts, voicemails and other threatening messages received by Gersh, her husband, and even her 12-year-old son, causing them to fear for their lives. The complaint accuses Anglin of various torts, including intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.“We didn’t know if they would come after us … [we] still don’t,” Gersh told reporters Tuesday, choking back tears as she described the barrage of threats she and her family have received, including countless references to the Holocaust and gas chambers.“Once I answered the phone and all I heard were gunshots,” she said. “I have never been so scared in my entire life.”
My name is Sherry Spencer, and I am Richard Spencer’s mom. I’m a resident of Whitefish, Montana, and am the proud owner of a beautiful mixed-use facility in town.It was years ago now that I first broke ground on the building, which features vacation-rental apartments and office spaces. I hired a local architect and builder to bring my ideas to life — and both exceeded my expectations.I am the sole owner of the facility. It was built, not just with my capital, but with my ideas and sensibility. The apartments even include my original artwork, and the rooftop garden features my ceramic mural, which celebrates the Whitefish Winter Carnival.In other words, I poured my heart and soul into this project.The building opened in late 2015, and received wide acclaim from the local press. And the vacation apartments have been enjoyed by people from around the world.Richard does not own the building, nor has he ever used it for his writing or publishing. Put simply, the building has nothing to do with politics — and it has everything to do with tourism and local businesses.I had no intention of selling . . . until I started receiving terrible threats in the last couple of weeks.These threats came from Tanya Gersh, a local realtor with links to “human rights” organizations Love Lives Here and the Montana Human Rights Network.On November 22, Gersh and I spoke on the phone. She relayed to me that if I did not sell my building, 200 protesters and national media would show up outside — which would drive down the property value — until I complied. Gersh’s other conditions included that I make a public denunciation of my son in a statement written by the Montana Human Rights Network and that I make a donation to this organization from the sale of the property. As Gersh announced on Facebook, she was “spear heading” the campaign.Gersh followed up on her conditions in a number of emails, which I’ve just made public. She even shamelessly suggested that she act as my realtor! In other words, she and the local “human rights” organizations appeared to seek financial benefit from threats of protests and reputation damage. The same day Gersh first contacted me, I received a sales offer, even though I had not expressed any intention to sell, nor had anything been publicized.One renter reported to me that Gersh threatened her business with boycotts unless she moved. This renter also alleged that Gersh called her “collateral damage.” As the manager of the property, I employ a number of local maids and other maintenance personnel, who would lose their jobs if I were to sell. More “collateral damage,” I guess.I never wanted to go public with this story. However, the fact that so many news outlets have reported on it forces my hand.