Ellen Watson could’ve told Meg Lanker-Simons what was coming. Watson could’ve told her what happens when a strong woman offends the establishment in Wyoming. Meg is about the same age Ellen Watson was when she was lynched in 1889. You may know Ellen as “Cattle Kate.” That wasn’t her name nor was she the prostitute they said she was to justify her hanging.
Ellen’s staked claim to land that Albert Bothwell insisted he owned, though he didn’t. Powerful cattlemen like Bothwell got their way by falsely claiming settlers like Ellen were rustlers. The truth could’ve been determined by a jury, but they could execute the death penalty without a trial. That’s what Ellen got.
It’s Wyoming 125 years later and that’s what Meg Lanker-Simons is getting. Trials are held to determine facts, lynchings before facts are determined. Lanker-Simons is getting what Clarence Thomas called a “high-tech lynching.”
Meg is out of step with many fellow students. She’s an unabashed liberal in Wyoming, where many would like to have liberals delisted along with wolves. Recently someone posted comments on a rogue website at the University, targeting Lanker-Simons, carrying explicit threats of sexual assault to remedy her leftist beliefs.
Meg once sued the University for violating the free speech guarantee of the Constitution. UW invited Bill Ayers to speak and then, under threat from politically powerful donors, decided Ayers couldn’t speak after all. Meg sued based on the “leftist” notion that public institutions shouldn’t preclude the exercise of free speech. The court ruled in her favor as any first-year law student could have predicted.
Judge William Downes asked, "If the First Amendment can't find sanctuary somewhere on a college campus, where can it take refuge?" Where? Not UW.
When the University discovered it had no defense, it went on offense, sending lawyers to trash the student who had the courage to stand up. It was a classless act that demonstrated how far UW’s administrators were willing to go to demean someone who dared question them.
John Davis’ book “Wyoming Range War” describes Watson’s killers. “Most of the men headed to Ellen Watson’s land that early afternoon of July 21, 1889, were angry, one might say steeped in outraged indignation.”
Apples don’t fall far from the tree. Many students come to Laramie from communities where there’s a bounty on liberals. Smart, articulate, and fearless, she’s a worthy opponent. Those characteristics made her a target. Her outspokenness hasn’t been welcomed. It caused some to become “steeped in outraged indignation.”
Detractors are armed with a UW investigation into the threats aimed at Lanker-Simons on that rogue website. The investigation conveniently pointed fingers at Lanker-Simons, claiming she posted the sexual assault threats against herself. Sorting out criminal charges should be left to the courts. There’s good reason to challenge statements by UW’s investigators but that’s why we have lawyers, judges, and juries. Whether you think she’s guilty or not, she’s entitled to a presumption of innocence and a trial.
Vigilantes outsource their outraged indignation. On Facebook they call her a “communist.” Using the anonymity of the Internet they’ve posted lies and threats, inciting others to do the same. Someone identified as “Ibram Gaunt” posted, “aww she’s beautiful on the inside. bulllllshhhhiiiitttt, probably full of chicken nuggets and dollar double stacks. what a cow, go on a diet you fat bitch!!!!!!!!!”
On the Laramie newspaper site someone identified as “UW Student” posted, “Can we get some confirmation on whether or not this girl is dead? I keep hearing that.” One identified as “Jack Levitt UW Student” asked, “Did she shoot herself in the head to advance the leftwing gun control agenda?”
They want Meg and any other woman who might speak out to get the message. Outspokenness on this campus is risky. Unlike Ellen Watson, Meg will have her day in court. Unlike Meg, Watson didn’t have to endure the onslaught of cowards hiding behind social media. The cowards Watson confronted at least had to show their faces to do their dirty work.