School’s first black student president suing over racist attack
After Taylor Dumpson became the first female African-American president of American University’s student government, she was targeted by a racist backlash.
Now she wants justice — not just for a vile incident involving an unidentified man hanging bananas from nooses around the school’s Washington, D.C., campus, but for the racist “troll storm” she says was coordinated against her by Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin.
The backlash left her traumatized and “fearing for her safety,” according to a lawsuit filed this week in federal court.
The online attacks against her began after media coverage of the May 2017 stunt involving bananas with messages written on them. One said, “Harambe Bait,” a reference to the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla killed in 2016 after dragging a child through its enclosure. Another said, “AKA Free,” a shot at the African-American sorority of which Dumpson is a member.
“Bananas, insinuating that African Americans are gorillas or monkeys. It was jarring to say the least,” she told CNN at the time of the incident.
Dumpson began receiving messages from strangers on Facebook that were “harassing, mocking, and trolling her,” her lawyers say in the lawsuit.
The onslaught began after Anglin posted an article on his site, with a picture of Dumpson and links to her social media accounts.
“No one feels safe around bananas,” he wrote. “Some racists have taken to calling this African Queen ‘Dumpy Dumpson,’ smdh [shaking my damn head].”
He continued: “Be sure to send her some words of support on Facebook, and hit up the AU Student Government on Twitter. Let her know that you fully support her struggle against bananas.”
The suit asks that Anglin and his website stop using Dumpson’s name and likeness, stop harassing and trolling her, undergo anti-racism and anti-sexism training and pay damages for pain and suffering, along with punitive damages.
The legal action, filed in part by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, accuses Anglin of incitement of intentional infliction of emotional distress and/or conspiracy to do so, interfering with Dumpson’s right to equal opportunity to education, and bias-related incitement or conspiracy to commit stalking.
“In his typical style, [Anglin] conveyed his hateful and racist message and incited others to harass Ms. Dumpson unlawfully,” the lawsuit claims.
Anglin “knew that the language he used in this article would or was likely to encourage his followers to immediately take unlawful acts against Ms. Dumpson,” the lawsuit argues.
Dumpson’s lawyers called the Daily Stormer a “leading white supremacist and neo-Nazi website” and argue that Anglin has a “history of using the platform to incite his followers to hatefully ‘troll’ racial and religious minorities in order to inflict harm against them.”
Anglin did not respond to a request for comment.
Among the messages Dumpson received: cartoons of figures giving a Nazi salute; messages saying to send black people back to Africa; messages mocking the incident as a hate crime when it’s just “giving the #monkeys their natural food”; and a variety of other racist messages using stereotypes of black people.
Dumpson’s lawyers said the messages left her overwhelmed, fearful and in shock, and she was unable to eat or sleep normally for several days.
Her lawyers said she also worried that she was in physical danger.
“She was scared that someone might be coming to physically attack her at that very moment and that fear caused her to experience intense trauma,” her lawyers said.
Dumpson also is suing two people for tweeting racist stereotypes at her. After the announcement of a town hall about the nooses, someone tweeted a picture of bananas with the caption “Ready the troops” and telling people to bring bananas, according to the lawsuit.
Another tweeted racist statements “which seek to mock racist stereotypes of how African Americans talk,” including one mocking monkey noises at her that read “OOOOOOK EEEEEK CHIMPOUT!”
Dumpson’s lawsuit says she has been diagnosed with PTSD after receiving the messages, and it has impacted her academics. Now, she is “constantly afraid and on edge” and carries an alarm and pepper spray for self-defense, it says.
American University announced in April that despite elevating the hate crime to the FBI and federal prosecutors, all credible leads regarding the noose incident had been exhausted.
“I know this is disappointing. I recognize the anger and grief that many experienced because of this traumatic event and understand that this is not the outcome we hoped form,” American University President Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement. “We must create our own path to healing as a community.”
Separately, Anglin is being sued by Jewish realtor Tanya Gersh in Montana over her claims that he launched a Neo-Nazi troll storm against her because of her religion following a dispute with the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer, who lives in the same Montana city.
Anglin has claimed his messages in the Gersh case are protected by the First Amendment. His lawyer in the Gersh matter says they have not been retained to represent him in Dumpson’s claim.
Correction: The headline of this story has been revised to make it clear that Taylor Dumpson is the first female African-American president of American University’s student government.