One view of how Whitefish conflict started

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I am writing in response to your April 19 article entitled “Whitefish woman sues neo-Nazi for online assault.” The purpose of this missive is to factually correct some of the events as they have been described. I have corroboratory witnesses and evidence for the facts in this matter as I am stating them.

I received a call on the morning of Nov. 22, 2016, from one of my retail tenants at 22 Lupfer. She was quite distressed in that she had just been called by Mrs. Tanya Gersh and warned that there could be as many as 200 protesters and national news media picketing the building on Lupfer that I own and, therefore, her business as well. The tenant asked me if I would call Mrs. Gersh and gave me her full name and phone number, saying that she would be expecting my call. I readily agreed, believing that I would explain that there had been a mistaken perception that my son, Richard Spencer, had ownership in the building or conducted business there, neither of which is true. At this point, I had never before heard of Tanya Gersh and still have not met her.

I called Mrs. Gersh on the morning of Nov. 22 (not Dec. 1). After introducing myself, I explained that the building had been built as an investment and hopefully a positive addition to the Railway District. I also pointed out that I was calling on behalf of my tenants, who surely should be recognized as innocent collateral damage. Mrs. Gersh told me that regardless of the facts surrounding the building’s ownership, as well as my and my tenants’ lack of involvement in political matters, that my son, Richard Spencer, had done such damage to the community that the following must be done in order to put this matter to rest:

1) I must sell the building, 22.

2) I must write a statement denouncing my son and his political views and apologize to the local community for his transgressions.

3) Richard must move from Whitefish.

4) I must make a donation to the Montana Human Rights Network from proceeds of the sale of the building.

I was stunned. We had just begun renting spaces in the building and I had not considered the possibility of selling. Within two or three hours of our phone conversation, I received an email from Mrs. Gersh with a real-estate contract attached for me to sell the building with her as the Realtor. Also attached was a prepared statement of contrition that I should modify as I saw fit, then submit to the papers and local community.

My call to Mrs. Gersh was only to give information about the use of the building. I gave her the code to the building so that she could ascertain that it simply housed four short-term rental units, two retail units, and a roof garden for the guests. There are many in my life whose counsel I seek and trust. I was surely not calling a stranger for advice. I did ask her if she would be able to call off the protests and she assured me that she could if I agreed to the conditions.

I talked to family and friends, saying with great regret, that I must sell the building in which I had invested so much time, energy and money. I was met with universal advice not to do so. Such action would be giving in to bullying, and that being a mother of a 38-year-old man did not constitute responsibility for Richard’s ideas or actions.

I have attempted to remain quiet. I have not given interviews. As reported in a December interview with my husband, we then, and now, wholeheartedly denounce all hatred or threats directed by the Daily Stormer and commenting readers toward the Gersh family. I truly did not have any idea that such hatred existed. I too have received many threats each day following this publication, including photos of me with my brains blown out, being called every vile name imaginable, and having news media and reporters in and around my home. My address has been published any number of times (including in Politico with recommendations to come with baseball bats — that editor was fired, but after the damage had been done). This is my home, not headquarters for any hatred.

Our lives, as well as the Gershes, have been changed dramatically by actions initiated on Nov. 22, 2016. We have had to adapt to living with fear and threats. Clearly, this is a life none of us had imagined. Nevertheless, I feel that I must correct some of the misinformation that continues to be promulgated. My goal remains the same: to be able to live peacefully and safely in the community that we have grown to love.

Sherry Spencer is a resident of Whitefish and the owner of 22 Lupfer. Her grown son is Richard Spencer, the founder of the controversial National Policy Institute, which says it is “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States.”

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