Three individuals were arrested Tuesday at Auburn University during a speaking engagement on campus featuring Richard Spencer, a controversial white nationalist whose appearance drew hundreds of protesters and supporters alike.
All three were arrested outside the event and charged with disorderly conduct, Capt. Lorenza Dorsey of the Auburn Police Division told The Associated Press. Their identities were not immediately known.
Auburn had previously canceled Tuesday evening’s appearance by Mr. Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, amid fears his presence would trigger potentially violent protests. A lawyer intervened on Mr. Spencer’s behalf, however, and a federal judge Tuesday afternoon ordered Auburn to let the event unfold as initially planned.
“Auburn did not produce evidence that Mr. Spencer’s speech is likely to incite or produce imminent lawless action,” U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins ruled. “The court finds that Auburn University cancelled the speech based on its belief that listeners and protest groups opposed to Mr. Spencer’s ideology would react to the content of his speech by engaging in protests that could cause violence or property damage.”
In addition to baring the Alabama college from “cancelling, prohibiting or preventing listeners from attending” Tuesday’s evening’s event, the judge’s order also instructed authorities to enforce a state law prohibiting individuals from wearing masks, addressing safety concerns raised after a rash of violent episode across the country attributed to mask-clad protesters.
Individuals traveled from as far away as Atlanta to protest Mr. Spencer’s appearance, the city’s Journal-Constitution reported.
Students told CNN that two people — a protester and a support of Mr. Spencer — were arrested after a fistfight erupted outside Tuesday’s event, the network reported.
Mr. Spencer was infamously punched in the face during a televised interview in January. His rise to prominence began months earlier, however, when his speech during a National Policy Institute summit in Washington drew comparisons to Nazism and its leader, Adolf Hitler.
Mr. Spencer, 38, has been widely credited with coining the term “alt-right,” a label applied to far-right conservatism.
“The alt-right is about being a white person, being a European in the 21st century,” he said during Tuesday’s event. “There’d be no history without us.”