Black student leader sued her racist online harassers and wins groundbreaking settlement

Taylor Dumpson hopes the victory will send the message to white supremacist trolls that they will be held accountable

Black student targeted by online trolls hopes lawsuit and settlement send message to White supremacists

Taylor Dumpson
Taylor Dumpson (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times)

After Taylor Dumpson  was elected student body president at American University, she was trolled and racially harassed by several white supremacists. Dumpson who is African-American, fought back, suing one of her harassers in the hopes of sending a strong message to all racists that they will be held accountable for their actions.

The student leader sued Evan James McCarty of Eugene, Ore., and two other defendants, including the publisher of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, after she was pummeled with racist pictures and derogatory messages online. As part of the settlement, filed this past week, McCarty said he will apologize, repudiate white supremacy, go to counseling and join forces with civil rights organizations to help them fight hatred and racism, according to The New York Times.

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Dumpson, 22, told the newspaper that this should serve as a warning to racists who hide behind the cover of the Internet or the shield of night to do their cowardly deeds, “that they’re going to be held accountable.”

“I’m using what was a traumatic experience for me to help promote racial justice,” Dumpson said to The NY Times. She was targeted in a vicious harassment campaign after she became the first black woman to serve as American University’s student body president in May 2017. Afterwards, bananas hung from nooses were found around the campus.

When news outlets covered the harassment, Andrew Anglin, who runs The Daily Stormer, listed Dumpson’s picture and personal information online and encouraged his followers to harass and bully her, a tactic he has also employed against Jewish and Muslim victims, according to The NY Times.

One of the people eager to join in was McCarty, also now 22, a student and actor who had been leading a clandestine life on the Internet, posting racist messages under the alias “Byron De La Vandal,” a nod to Byron De La Beckwith of the Ku Klux Klan who killed Medgar Evers. McCarty’s true identity was unveiled by an anti-fascist group in April.

In the lawsuit, Dumpson said she feared for her life and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She is now a graduate of American University and is enrolled in law school.

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As part of the settlement, McCarty agreed to assist Dumpson as she sued his two co-defendants, Anglin and Brian Andrew Ade. McCarty must also apologize to Dumpson in writing and on video, which she can then use for “civil rights advocacy, outreach and educational activities,” according to the settlement.

McCarty also agreed to undergo anti-hate training and at least one year of counseling, complete four academic classes on race and gender issues and perform 200 hours of community service related to racial justice. Dumpson’s legal team will monitor his compliance and will hit him with monetary penalties if he fails to comply, according to The Times.

“What we are doing here is pulling back the veil on online racist trolls,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed the lawsuit on Ms. Dumpson’s behalf, according to The NY Times. “For too long, they’ve been allowed to act with impunity.”