WASHINGTON (CN) – American University’s first black female student government president sued the owner a Neo-Nazi website and some of its loyal readers Monday over online threats and other harassment she’s been subjected to since her inauguration.
As recounted in a federal complaint filed on April 30 in Washington, the racist trolling of Taylor Dumpson began on May 1, 2017, the day after she took office, when a masked man hung several bananas on nooses near the student government’s offices.
While the use of the nooses was in itself a threat meant to intimidate the student, writes attorney Ragan Naresh, of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, several epithets and written threats were also scrawled across the fruit.
These included the phrases “AKA free,” referencing Dumpson’s sorority, and “Harambe bait.”
“Harambe” was the name of a 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo in May 2016, after a young boy fell into his enclosure.
Dumpson and her attorneys say “Harambe bait” is a crude and racist slur that compares blacks to gorillas and threatens to lure them to their death.
The complaint goes on to claim that after the media reported on the alleged hate crime, defendant Andrew Anglin, a known neo-Nazi, posted an article about Dumpson and the incident on his website, the Daily Stormer.
According to Naresh and the other attorneys comprising Dumpson’s legal team, Anglin targeted the student using racist language and directed his followers to “troll storm” and otherwise cyberbully her via social media.
Anglin “included her name and photo in his article and provided direct links to her Facebook page and the American University Student Government’s Twitter page,” the complaint says. “As Defendant Anglin intended, a troll storm ensued.”
The lawsuits says Anglin’s co-defendants, Brian Andrew Ade and Evan James McCarty, among others, took to social media to target, intimidate, threaten and harass Dumpson with racist and demeaning messages.
“As a result of the hate crimes and racist online attacks against her, Ms. Dumpson was denied an equal opportunity to participate in public accommodations and in her educational institution, American University. These crimes and harassment therefore violated the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977,” the complaint says.
Dumpson also says the troll storm and harassment left her in severe emotional and physical trauma and that she has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dumpson seeks declaratory and injunctive relief in addition to unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“We will use every tool at our disposal to hold white supremacists and others who commit hate crimes accountable, including bigots who inflict vicious harm on line in violation of the law,” said Becky Monroe, director of the Stop Hate Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a statement.
“We brought this case because of a young woman’s determination to hold on-line harassers accountable for violating the law, and her refusal to permit racist cowards to hide behind the perceived anonymity of the internet.”
Representatives of the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.