Local Attorneys Defend Antifascists Against Suit by Alleged Racist

Bethany Sherman of OG Analytical filed a SLAPP suit in San Francisco

In December of 2017, anonymous Antifa members posted a story on the Rose City Antifa and Eugene Antifa websites alleging that Bethany Sherman of prominent cannabis testing lab OG Analytical was a white supremacist.

Almost a year later, Sherman filed a SLAPP-type suit against 10 anonymous antifascists in San Francisco, according to press release from Eugene-based Civil Liberties Defense Center. The suit makes “three claims against the author(s) of the Antifa article: 1) defamation; 2) violation of right to privacy; and 3) intentional interference with prospective economic relations,” the release says.

The CLDC, with co-counsel from the San Francisco-based First Amendment Project, is defending the anonymous individuals being sued by Sherman and the defunct OG Analytical. A SLAPP suit is a “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” SLAPP suits seek to chill free speech and silence critics.

After the allegations against Sherman and her partner, Matthew Combs were reported by Antifa and picked up on by EW, The Oregonian and other papers, OG Analytical closed, and Sherman and Combs left Eugene.

Allegations and images included in the Antifa story included Sherman allegedly praising a love-swastika sticker that local racist Jimmy Marr created from a diversity emblem and offering to change the wording so “It doesn’t say stupid shit like we are all one race.” The article has photos that the writers say are of Combs sieg heiling with Marr in front of his house, which is adorned with signs reading “The Holocaust is Hokum.”

The Antifa story also “doxxed” Sherman, making public her then-home address.

In response to the allegations, Sherman issued a statement, saying in part:

I find it extremely disconcerting that it is admired and revered to have “Gay Pride,” “Black Pride,” “Asian Pride,” or pride in any other cultural heritage, but if you have “White Pride,” it automatically makes you a Nazi, and you are ostracized, attacked, and lynched by your community. I admit, I am proud that I am white, and I’m not ashamed of my heritage. And I admit that I have been so conditioned to feel shame about this pride that I discreetly sought community where I could. 

In September, former OG Analytical staffers sued, alleging “their former employer owes them money after she fired them last December upon publicly being accused of supporting white nationalist groups,” according to The Register-Guard. The RG reported that “Sherman’s former workers at OG Analytical allege she ‘berated and blamed’ the employees at a meeting last Dec. 5 that came on the heels of an article published by a Portland newspaper that reported her alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups.” The 12 employees seek $164,300 and say they were not paid for hours worked or given access to their retirement accounts.

The latest lawsuit, filed by Sherman in the San Francisco Superior Court in September, alleges that Sherman was injured by defamatory statements made in the Antifa articles. It sues 10 anonymous individuals. According to the CLDC press release, “the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Sherman by attorney William Johnson, chairperson of the racist ‘American Freedom Party’ and proponent of a constitutional amendment that would restrict citizenship in the U.S. to only white people.”

The CLDC says that shortly after filing the suit,  the plaintiffs subpoenaed the webhost service of the Eugene Antifa website, Weebly, “in an attempt to unmask the identities of the author(s) of the article as well as visitors to the website.”

On Oct. 5, the CLDC and First Amendment Project filed a motion to quash the subpoena (throw it out) because, the CLDC says, “if granted, the subpoena will violate the First Amendment rights of the unnamed defendant(s) to engage in anonymous political speech.”

The release concludes that “the CLDC and the First Amendment Project are committed to fighting this and other meritless SLAPP suits as well as supporting people who stand up to Nazism and other forms of white supremacy. A hearing on the motion to quash is currently set for November 9.”

You can read more from the CLDC on the case here.