By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
When Taylor Dumpson broke barriers as American University’s first female Black student body president in 2017, a masked person responded by hanging bananas and nooses around campus the day after her inauguration. As if that blatant act of racism wasn’t enough, Andrew Anglin, publisher of the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, and one of his followers Brian Andrew Ade, added insult to injury by encouraging others to “troll” Dumpson on social media.
The pain from the racism and online taunting led to mental and financial damages and now a payday for the young woman.
According to a court order by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Anglin, Ade and Moonbase Holdings, a company used for financial dealings for the Daily Stormer are, “jointly and severally liable for compensatory damages in the amount of $101,429.28, punitive damages in the amount of $500,000, and attorneys’ fees in the amount of $124,022.10,” totaling $725, 451.38.
In addition to the compensatory ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer order that the defendants are forbidden from, “ (1) communicating directly with Taylor Dumpson; or (2) publishing any public statements involving Ms. Dumpson that (a) are defamatory, threatening, intimidating, harassing, or bully; (b) interfere with Ms. Dumpson’s equal enjoyment of public accommodations; (c) incite unlawful acts; or (d) are otherwise unlawful,” the court ruling said.
According to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the organization that represented Dumpson along with pro bono counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Washington Lawyers Committee, Anglin encouraged his followers to harass the former American University president, which, per the lawsuit, allegedly interfered with her quotidian life and educational environment.
“Mr. Anglin and Moonbase Holdings interfered with Ms. Dumpson’s access and enjoyment of [American University] by causing Ms. Dumpson to feel constantly unsafe as a result of Mr. Anglin and Moonbase Holdings’ threatening messages and the messages they urged others to send,” Judge Collyer wrote. “The Court finds … that Ms. Dumpson was targeted because of her race and gender.”
Emily P. Hughes, P.C., one of the partners who oversaw the Kirkland and Ellis team emphasized the landmark nature of this ruling.
“This ruling is a precedent-setting moment in the fight against online hate, bigotry, and harassment. It recognizes that online hate and harassment on the basis of gender and race can and did interfere with our client’s rights to the use and enjoyment of a place of public accommodation and that such interference is actionable and has real consequences for those who engage in such crimes and misconduct,” Hughes said.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to have been part of the effort to secure this victory, which we anticipate will be used by future victims as an important tool against hate,” she added.
The Executive Director of Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Jonathan M. Smith, also weighed in on the importance of Judge Collyer’s ruling in this case of racial discrimination and trolling.
“Taylor Dumpson was subjected to vile, racist threats solely because she was an African American woman exercising leadership at the University,” Smith said. “The Court ruling today vindicates her rights, and the rights of all people of color, to be free from intimidation and the use of the Internet to terrorize. Ms. Dumpson’s leadership and courage throughout is an inspiration.”