Whitefish didn’t want the Nazis and neither did the family they claimed to protect
by MATTHEW GAULT
Neo-Nazis made headlines, again, last month when prominent jackboot enthusiast Andrew Anglin announced he would march through the small town of Whitefish, Montana with a band of armed skinheads. Anglin claimed he had organized the march to fight back against an elaborate Jewish conspiracy, because of course.
Anglin planned the march to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and had named the event the James Earl Ray Day Extravaganza. Y’know, because Nazis are assholes. Anglin submitted all the proper documents to the small Montana town, and Whitefish — to little surprise — rejected it.
Now, despite telling me via email a week ago that “if they reject it we’ll use the sidewalk,” Anglin announced he would postpone the march. He claimed on his website, The Daily Stormer, that he and his lawyers think they have enough to bring a federal lawsuit against Whitefish and that the new, possibly unapproved, march will happen in February. He also promised it’ll be bigger and better than ever.
Unless something dramatic happens and Anglin pulls off the march in February, which isn’t impossible, this may be the end of the strange little story of the Nazi march in Whitefish. I’ve been following it for a month now and it’s a deeply odd story involving conspiracy theories, trolls and the mother of the most popular white nationalist in America.
All the way back in 2010, up and coming white nationalist leader Richard Spencer moved to the small mountain town of Whitefish, Montana. Ever since, he’s split his time between Whitefish and the East Coast. His think tank — the National Policy Institute — has a mailing address in Whitefish.
Sherry Spencer — Richard’s mother — also lives in Whitefish and owns some property there. This is a small town. The most recent survey put the population at just over 6,000 people and it’s safe to assume most people in the town know who the major local players are.
The recent trouble started on Dec. 15, 2016 when Sherry posted an article on Medium detailing her alleged harassment at the hands of local real estate agent Tanya Gersh.
“On November 22, Gersh and I spoke on the phone,” Sherry wrote. “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.”
Sherry backed up her claims with screencaps of Gersh bragging about the sale on social media as well as email correspondence from Gersh, prospective buyers and at least one anonymous person who told her she should get out of town.
“Whatever you think about my son’s ideas — they are, after all, ideas — in what moral universe is it right for the ‘sins’ of the son to be visited upon the mother?” Sherry wrote. “All I wanted to do with the building was help Whitefish.”
An already awful story was about to get a lot worse.
Within hours of Sherry opening up about Gersh’s alleged shady dealings, Anglin and his outlet The Daily Stormer decided to do something about it. Gersh isn’t just a realtor, she’s involved in several Jewish and human rights groups in the area. For Anglin, this wasn’t just one woman being a jerk but the makings of a full-fledged Jewish conspiracy.
To punish the people he felt were responsible for Sherry’s problems, he published the names and telephone numbers of prominent Jewish community members in Whitefish and encouraged his readers to call and harass them. “Are y’all ready for an old fashioned Troll Storm?” Anglin wrote.
I’ve attempted to contact both Tanya Gersh and the charity — Love Lives Here — she’s associated with to see if there’s any truth to Spencer’s allegations. Gersh did not respond to my repeated attempts to reach her and neither did Love Lives Here.
The charity did, however, throw Ms. Gersh under the bus in the press. Which seems to indicate there is at least some truth to Sherry’s allegations. Love Lives Here co-founder Rabbi Allen Secher talked to Jewish Journal on Dec. 23 and decried Gersh’s actions.
“Secher unequivocally rejected the claim that Love Lives Here approached Spencer, saying that Gersh was not speaking on the group’s behalf. Gersh did not respond to an emailed request for comment,” Jewish Journal said. “‘Nothing was further from the truth,’ Secher said of the allegation that his group pressured Spencer. ‘Love Lives Here never contacted her.’”
But that doesn’t matter to Anglin and The Daily Stormer’s readers, who kept hounding the group and Whitefish’s Jewish community with a prolonged doxxing campaign and plans to march through the streets on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Anglin was the only person in the story who’d return my calls or emails. Which makes sense, Gersh, the Jewish community of Whitefish, the local law enforcement and the FBI are drowning in doxxing monsters.
For his part, Anglin said he didn’t typically talk to journalists. “I don’t usually respond,” he said. “Just to goofy SJW outlets like VICE who I know are going to write some outrageous thing.” So at least I knew where I stood with him.
Both Sherry and Richard Spencer don’t seem to want any part of the mess. “I strongly urge that everyone stays within the bounds of respectful, civilized discussion of this matter by refraining from abusive comments or targeted harassment of any of the parties involved, or their families,” Sherry wrote in an addendum to her Medium article.
“I disavow the harassment that anyone faced as a result of these events first being brought to light by the media even prior to this publication of my side of the story. After all, my own family and I have faced — and continue to face — numerous threats and bullying on social media as well.”
Sherry and her husband, Richard’s father, even co-wrote an op-ed for a local paper disavowing both their son’s white nationalism and Anglin’s proposed march. “We are not racists. We have never been racists. We do not endorse the idea of white nationalism.”
Richard told Missoulian that he didn’t want any part in Whitefish’s politics and that he thought the march probably wouldn’t even take place. “There’s not going to be a pogrom in Whitefish. It’s just ridiculous to think that,” he said.
This doesn’t matter to Anglin. He told me his group needed to carry guns, “To show this is serious business and we’re not willing to be pushed around. It is in the Constitution.” I also asked if he’d been in contact with the FBI.
“I obviously don’t talk to the FBI, I’m not fucking stupid,” he said. “They don’t visit me anymore, because they know I’m not stupid enough to talk to them and they don’t have a warrant because I’ve done nothing wrong, ever. So, no.”
Nothing criminally wrong, that we know of, anyway. Anglin has repeatedly said he’d have a member of Hamas as well as several prominent nationalists from Europe on his side at the March. He claimed the groups contacted him, but he wouldn’t give me their names or the names of the organizations they belonged to.
Originally the group planned to march from Gersh’s house to the center of town and back again. I wanted to know why they’d changed their minds.
“Well, it’s freezing cold out,” he said. “Her house is over a mile from the center of the city. Two hundred people aren’t going to march a mile and a half and back in 10 degree weather.”
But this was back when he planned to march on Martin Luther King Jr Day. Hey, maybe if he’s lucky it’ll warm up by February and they can perform the armed Nazi march they intended all along.
I also wanted to know the cost of the endeavor and how he planned to control the threat of possible violence. Anglin claimed he’d bus in 200 neo-Nazis from California to participate in the march. He wanted them armed. “Local leaders I trust have vetted groups. Vetting is a big part of skinhead culture.”
I asked if he’d reached out to Sherry to see if she even wanted him to bus in skinheads from California on her behalf. “I have never met or talked to Sherry Spencer. Why would I have?” he said.
But, presumably Anglin wants to keep social justice warriors and the FBI out. Also, the total cost is around $10,000 but Anglin isn’t sweating it. “It’s a donation from a supporter.”
That is, of course, if the march ever happens. But either way, Anglin benefits from the publicity. His articles on The Daily Stormer have already claimed he postponed the march due to “Jewish tricks.” If he doesn’t march, he gets to play the victim and feed his conspiracy theories. If he does march, he gets a great photo op.
It’ll be national news, especially if Hamas shows up to talk.
The real losers in this story are Richard Spencer’s parents — Sherry and Rand — who, from what I can tell, just want to live in peace and distance themselves from their son’s neo-fascist politics. Turns out the sins of the son are revisited on the parents, and the Spencers are now caught between a community that seems to want them gone and crazy, racist supporters they never asked for.