This past Friday, a federal judge awarded Taylor Dumpson $725,000 of a $1.5 million lawsuit she filed against The Daily Storm founder and publisher Andrew Anglin earlier this year. Anglin orchestrated a plan to have racist trolls harass the young woman. The “troll storm” made her fear for her life. She was the first Black woman to serve as student body president at American University.
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The decision may have set a precedent. It is the first time a court has pronounced that racists who troll online are interfering with a person’s right to equal access to a public accommodation, according to Kristen Clarke, executive director and president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The organization represented Dumpson in the lawsuit.
In 2017, Taylor Dumpson was elected as American University’s first Black female student body president. One day following her inauguration, an anonymous person hung nooses with bananas tied to them around the school campus. Some of the bananas had “AKA” written on them. It was a reference to her being a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.- the nation’s first historically Black Greek-lettered organization for women. Others read “Harambe bait.” Andrew Anglin, an avowed neo-Nazi, posted an article on the Daily Stormer, writing: “No one feels safe around bananas.” The trolling ensued after he disclosed Dumpson’s name, photo and links to her personal Facebook account along with American University’s Twitter account. Anglin, then, told his followers to terrorize and torment her on social media.
Dumpson suffered tremendously at the hands of racist white men following the election. One man, in particular, Brian Andrew Ade, posted nine harassing tweets to Dumpson. He compared her to a gorilla and a chimp and referred to her as a “sheboon.” Ade was a defendant in the lawsuit as well.
Because she feared for her life, she carried pepper spray around the school campus. As Dumpson’s performance in school began to deteriorate, she abandoned her pursuit of a minor in sociology. Ultimately, doctors diagnosed her with an eating disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major clinical depression, and anxiety. Dumpson lost more than 15 percent of her body weight “from the mental trauma stemming from the incident,” according to court documents.
A federal judge supported Dumpson’s claims of what occurred, and additionally, her attorney’s argument that identified American University campus is accessible to the public; it should be considered a “public accommodation.”
Anglin and Ade failed to respond to the summons. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia demanded the defendants pay slightly over $101,000 in compensatory damages, $500,000 in punitive damages and more than $124,000 in attorney’s fees. A restraining order against Anglin and Ade was also entered into the default judgment.