NY Times: White nationalist Richard Spencer, “organization has dissolved, his wife has divorced him, and he is facing trial next month in Charlottesville, Va., over his role in the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march there, but says he cannot afford a lawyer.”
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) September 5, 2021
Hardly an all-purpose, feel-good solution, but probably as close to a happy ending as can be expected in these times — “How a Small Town Silenced a Neo-Nazi Hate Campaign”:
WHITEFISH, Mont. — Richard B. Spencer, the most infamous summer resident in this town, once boasted that he stood at the vanguard of a white nationalist movement emboldened by President Donald J. Trump. Things have changed.
“I have bumped into him, and he runs — that’s actually a really good feeling,” said Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent targeted in an antisemitic hate campaign that Andrew Anglin, the founder of the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, unleashed in 2016 after Mr. Spencer’s mother made online accusations against Ms. Gersh.
Leaders in Whitefish say Mr. Spencer, who once ran his National Policy Institute from his mother’s $3 million summer house here, is now an outcast in this resort town in the Rocky Mountains, unable to get a table at many of its restaurants. His organization has dissolved. Meanwhile, his wife has divorced him, and he is facing trial next month in Charlottesville, Va., over his role in the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march there, but says he cannot afford a lawyer.
The turn of events is no accident. Whitefish, a mostly liberal, affluent community nestled in a county that voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and 2020, rose up and struck back. Residents who joined with state officials, human rights groups and synagogues say their bipartisan counteroffensive could hold lessons for others in an era of disinformation and intimidation, and in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“The best way to respond to hate and cyberterrorism in your community is through solidarity,” said Rabbi Francine Green Roston of the Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom, who now lectures other groups on how to ward off hate campaigns like the one Whitefish endured. “Another big principle is to take threats seriously, and prepare for the worst.”…
The trouble in Whitefish started after Mr. Trump’s victory in the 2016 election that November. Mr. Spencer, who had called his white nationalist movement a “vanguard” for Mr. Trump, delivered a racially charged speech at his institute’s conference in Washington, his words greeted by Nazi salutes. Video of the address went viral. In Whitefish, residents discussed protesting in front of a downtown commercial building owned by Mr. Spencer’s mother.
Ms. Gersh said Ms. Spencer had called her.
“She flat-out asked me, ‘Tanya, I don’t believe in my son’s ideology,’” Ms. Gersh recalled over coffee in her office downtown. “‘I’m heartbroken that this is hurting Whitefish. What should I do?’”
“I said: ‘Sherry, if this were my son, I would go ahead and sell the building. I would donate some money to something like the Human Rights Network to make a statement, and publish that you don’t believe in the ideologies of your son.’ And she said: ‘Thank you, Tanya. That’s exactly what I should do.’”…
Two weeks later, in December 2016, Ms. Spencer posted an article on the open publishing platform Medium accusing Ms. Gersh of using the threat of protests to blackmail her into selling. Mr. Spencer said on Saturday that he and his former wife had written the article published under his mother’s name. He repeated their claims against Ms. Gersh, adding that she had called his mother, not the other way around. The Spencers’ accusations quickly reverberated among the far right. Mr. Anglin of the Daily Stormer exhorted his “fam” online to “TAKE ACTION” to defend Ms. Spencer…
The Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Secure Community Network, the official safety and security organization of the North American Jewish community, advised residents on what to do.
As a result, Ms. Gersh did not speak publicly about her ordeal at the time. Rabbi Roston kept a low profile, discouraging coverage in the Jewish news media to protect the congregation and avoid giving attackers the attention they craved. The congregation did not cancel its Hanukkah party in December 2016 but moved it from the rabbi’s home to the conference room of a motel, with two armed security guards at the door. On each table, the rabbi placed a pile of supportive letters that had arrived from around the nation.
Volunteers distributed thousands of paper menorahs. “There were menorahs in every window in Whitefish,” Ms. Gersh said. An anti-hate rally drew 600 participants in zero-degree weather. On the eve of the neo-Nazi march, Rabbi Roston organized a chicken and matzo ball soup get-together for 350 people at the middle school in Whitefish, in a demonstration of unity and appreciation.
On Martin Luther King’s Birthday — Monday, Jan. 16 — not a single neo-Nazi turned up to march. “We could say they chickened out,” Rabbi Roston joked…
“Richard Spencer wanted this to be his happy vacation place where he could play and have fun, and people would just live and let live,” Rabbi Roston said. “Then he started suffering social consequences for his hatred.”
Ms. Gersh said that she had been afraid to work again after the hate campaign, but that after Charlottesville, “I knew that I had to go back to work because if I didn’t, they win.”
She keeps a photo of Ms. Heyer on her desk and bear spray in its drawer.