- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Penn State has denied white nationalist Richard Spencer permission to speak on campus this fall over security concerns raised in the wake of this month’s violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“In light of the recent violence and tragedy in Charlottesville, Penn State has evaluated a request for Richard Spencer, who is president of the National Policy Institute, to speak on the University Park campus this fall,” Eric Barron, the school’s president, said Tuesday.

“After critical assessment by campus police, in consultation with state and federal law enforcement officials, we have determined that Mr. Spencer is not welcome on our campus, as this event at this time presents a major security risk to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus. It is the likelihood of disruption and violence, not the content, however odious, that drives our decision,” he said in a statement.

With Penn State’s rejection, Mr. Spencer, 39, has been designated persona non grata by no fewer than four universities in the few weeks since his scheduled appearance at the Aug. 11 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville was canceled as the event descended into chaos.

State and local police had prepared for thousands of attendees and counterprotesters to attend the far-right rally but quickly found themselves outmatched when violent clashes erupted in the streets of Charlottesville before the event was scheduled to begin.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAullife declared a state of emergency, effectively canceling the rally late that morning, but demonstrations persisted until a couple hours later when a man identified as a “Unite the Right” attendee drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19 others.

Mr. Spencer has also been banned by the University of Florida, Michigan State University and Texas A&M amid fears his presence could provoke another tragedy.

“Penn State is an institution of higher education, and fully supports the right of free speech and encourages its expression in thoughtful and respectful ways, even when we strongly disagree with the opinions expressed,” Mr. Barron said Tuesday. “But the First Amendment does not require our University to risk imminent violence.”

Mr. Spencer did not return a request for comment Wednesday. When Texas A&M canceled on him last week, however, he touted the possibility of pursuing a lawsuit against the school on First Amendment grounds.

“They are worried there will be violence associated with this. You cannot suppress free speech on that basis,” Mr. Spencer told The Houston Chronicle at the time. “This could get interesting. … Their argument is very weak.”

Mr. Spencer is widely attributed with coining the term “alt-right,” a label applied to a far-right ideology associated with white supremacy and nationalism. He gained notoriety for quoting Nazi propaganda during a conference in D.C. last fall, and again in January when he was assaulted during a live interview.

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