- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An online effort to identify the masked person who punched alt-right founder Richard Spencer during President Donald Trump’s inauguration has amassed thousands of dollars in the days since the videotaped assault went viral.

Despite footage of the Friday altercation being viewed millions of times since, little information about the identity of the assailant has emerged. The crowdfunding website WeSearchr has garnered $4,530 in donations from 113 contributors as of Tuesday afternoon amid its quest for information for the assault on Mr. Spencer, the president of a white nationalist think tank.

“The very First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right of every American to speak their mind. That was Richard Spencer’s only crime when he was violently targeted by left-wing thugs,” reads a post on WeSearchr, a website described upon its launch last year by co-founder and chief technical officer Pax Dickinson as an “information marketplace”

“Violent criminals who try to shut down the First Amendment rights of Americans need to be exposed, not coddled and then forgotten,” the post says.

The website intends to accept donations through mid-April, and will award 75 percent of the final amount to whomever provides “fully-documented evidence or investigation identifying beyond a reasonable doubt the unknown criminal who sucker punched Richard Bertrand Spencer in the head.”

The effort has already hit a snag courtesy of social media censors. WeSearchr’s official Twitter account was abruptly suspended this week, complicating the website’s ability to amplify its bounty.

“I know the anarchist terrorist left was complaining mightily about our bounty, but I can’t see how attempting to identify the perpetrator of a violent crime in order to pass the information on to the police could possibly be against Twitter’s terms of service,” Mr. Dickinson told The Washington Times Tuesday.

“They are terrorists attempting to intimidate our company into backing down so their violent accomplice can evade prosecution,” he said. “They’re desperate and panicked by our bounty, but they won’t succeed in stopping us. Regardless of any pressure these domestic terrorists apply to our company: we will not stop until we find the puncher, publish his name and pass on his address and other personal information on to the DC police for prosecution. That’s a promise.”

A Twitter representative when contacted Tuesday referred to the company’s policy prohibiting users from inciting or engaging in the targeting abuse or harassment of others, including behavior deemed one-sided or threatening in manner.

“The Twitter Rules prohibit targeted abuse and harassment, and we will take action on accounts violating those policies,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Times on Tuesday.

According to WeSearchr, however, Twitter has looked the other way when it used the platform to amplify similar bounties in the past.

“It’s interesting that we’ve had a bounty up to identify the killer of DNC staffer Seth Rich for months and months and no one seemed to think that was at all beyond the pale, we didn’t hear a single complaint about trying to solve that crime. The Spencer bounty is very similar, we’re just trying to identify the perpetrator of a violent crime,” Mr. Dickinson told The Washington Times.

“Could it be that putting a bounty up on the killer of a Democrat is OK, but putting up a bounty on the puncher of a Trump supporter isn’t? How interesting.”

WeSearchr was launched last year by Mr. Dickinson and Chuck Johnson, a conservative blogger who also runs the website GotNews.com. Other initiatives currently active on WeSearchr’s website include efforts to conduct a DNA test on Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King and another aimed at obtaining former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s divorce filings.

Mr. Spencer, meanwhile, gained notoriety for having coined the term “alt-right,” a far-right ideology, in addition to frequently espousing concept aligned with neo-Nazi and white supremacism, such as anti-Semitism and ethnic cleaning. He retweeted the bounty involving his assailant’s identity several times from his own Twitter account this week, as well as another WeSearchr initiative aimed at identifying a woman accused of setting a Trump supporter’s hair on fire during Friday’s inauguration.

Speaking to the New York Times after the assault, Mr. Spencer said he was worried to leave the house without protection in the wake of Friday’s assault.

“I don’t think I could go out to an inauguration event without bodyguards or a protest or a conference,” he said. “I am more worried about going out to dinner on an average Tuesday because these kind of people are roaming around.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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