Tanya Gersh answered a phone call from an unknown number. First, she heard silence, then gunshots.
Sherry Spencer wrote Gersh threatened to drive down the property value of a building Spencer owns in Whitefish, Montana unless she agreed to sell the building, donate the money to a local human rights organization, and publicly denounce her son. Gersh, a real estate agent in Whitefish, has maintained that Spencer asked her to act as her realtor and later changed her mind.
A day after Spencer’s post went up, the publisher of neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer published a call to arms against the Gersh family. “Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion — TAKE ACTION!” the website’s publisher, Andrew Anglin wrote.
“Are y’all ready for an old fashioned Troll storm?” Anglin continued . “This is very important. Calling these people up and/or sending them a quick message is very easy. It is very important that we make them feel the kind of pressure they are making us feel.”
That’s when the phone calls, emails, text messages, and tweets began, according to a lawsuit Gersh filed against Anglin. The suit was announced Tuesday morning by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is representing Gersh.
“In the old days, Anglin would’ve burned a cross on Tanya’s lawn to intimidate her,” Richard Cohen, SPLC president said on a call with reporters.
Anglin did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Gersh’s attorneys claim it was Richard Spencer—not his mother—who published the blog post in December. Spencer’s mother lives in Whitefish part-time, and in January, locals drove him out of town after he harassed the town’s 100 Jewish residents. The National Policy Institute, the white supremacist think tank Spencer operates, was based on Montana from 2013 to 2016.
Cohen said Anglin published 30 articles about the Gersh family on the Daily Stormer (some of them under a section called “Jewish Problem”) after Anglin’s first post in December. The most recent post under the “Tanya Gersh” tag, titled “Rabbinical Council Gathers in Whitefish Montana To Fight Daily Stormer,” was published on January 19.
According to the civil complaint against Anglin, Gersh and her family have received more than 700 harassing messages since December, and Gersh’s attorneys say this nearly endless barrage of threats was spurred by Anglin. “We are going to ruin you, you Kike PoS,” one alleged troll wrote. “You will be driven to the brink of suicide. & We will be there to take pleasure in your pain & eventual end.”
Shortly after the original Daily Stormer piece went up, a post was published about Gersh on a website called She’s a Homewrecker, according to the lawsuit. In the post, an anonymous user claimed that she and her husband hired Gersh as their realtor, and that Gersh had seduced her husband.
“I was about to do his laundry and he had a woman’s fingernail in his back pocket?” they wrote, “Needless to say, I went to Tanya’s office and inspected her hand, and yes, there was a newly replaced nail.”
Gersh’s 12-year-old son was also targeted; one troll tweeted “psst kid, there’s a free Xbox One inside this oven,” according to the lawsuit. Another user allegedly tweeted “ask your mommy why she hates white people so much and runs an extortion racket.” In the original post calling for a “Troll storm,” Anglin called Gersh’s son a “creepy little faggot.”
Gersh said her husband, Judah, was similarly targeted, and received phone calls both at home and at work. For a time, he had to shut down his legal practice.
“The attacks were so often that our paralegals and secretaries weren’t able to conduct regular business hours or even answer the phone,” Gersh told reporters.
As a result of the threats, Gersh has gained weight, lost hair, and has suffered joint pain, her attorneys said in a statement.
“I’m having anxiety I had never experienced before. I’m having medical issues. Most importantly, I never feel safe,” Gersh said.
It’s possible that Anglin may defend himself by claiming he told his followers to refrain from violent threats. “NO VIOLENCE OR THREATS OF VIOLENCE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE TO THAT,” he wrote in December, before publishing Gersh’s personal contact information and referring to her as a “slut” and “whore.”
“No one would take that seriously. It’s just an effort to cover his rear end,” Cohen told The Daily Beast of Anglin’s warning against violence. “You can’t encourage people to harass and attack someone and say ‘keep it clean’ and pretend as if you have no responsibly for it.”