The University of Michigan will be sued in federal court next week unless it lets white nationalist Richard Spencer speak on campus, an attorney for his booking agent said Friday.
Kyle Bristow, a lawyer representing Cameron Padgett, a Georgia State University who schedules Mr. Spencer’s speaking engagements, said he’ll file a free speech complaint if UM administrators don’t agree by next Friday to accommodate the racist National Policy Institute president.
On the heels of similar legal threats and litigation, the ultimatum puts UM closer than ever to joining the growing list of public universities sued for refusing to host Mr. Spencer in the wake of his participation in the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Mr. Padgett asked UM on Oct. 27 for permission to rent a publicly available room on campus in order to host a political event featuring himself and Mr. Spencer, and his attorney followed up Friday demanding a decision within a matter of days after being rebuked by university officials.
“I am disgusted and dismayed that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is being flippantly disregarded by you and your colleagues because of the political viewpoint of the speakers who would attend the proposed event and the heckler’s veto which is being utilized by left-wing individuals who are detractors of Padgett and Spencer,” Mr. Bristow said in a letter to UM President Mark Schlissel.
“Regent Ron Weiser, for example, described Spencer as ‘disgusting’ and Regent Andrea Newman suggested that she ‘would be happy to defend a lawsuit’ if sued for wantonly infringing upon my client’s right to free speech.”
Doubling down on earlier threats, Mr. Bristow said he’ll take action next week unless the school rents space for Mr. Spencer.
“The University of Michigan has until Friday, November 24, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. to publicly acknowledge that Padgett can rent a room on its campus at which Padgett and Spencer will speak, or else I will make Regent Newman ‘happy’ by filing suit in federal court and seeking a court order for the same—in addition to a significant money judgment,” he wrote Mr. Schlissel.
“Violations of our people’s sacred right to free speech will not whatsoever be tolerated by me. I will use any and all resources as my disposal to see this matter through to a just and equitable conclusion.”
A representative for the university repeated the school’s stance on Mr. Padgett’s request when reached by the Detroit Free Press.
“The university will carefully consider the request, paying close attention to the safety and security of our community,” said UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.
Mr. Spencer, 39, gained notoriety last year for his involvement in the alt-right, “a Eurocentric political ideology which advocates the preservation of national identity, a return to traditional Western values, and advances European racial interests,” according to Mr. Bristow.
Mr. Spencer was slated to headline the “Unite the Right” protest on August 12, but his appearance was canceled after participants including white supremacists and neo-Nazis began clashing with counterprotesters.
Authorities ultimately linked the chaos to three deaths, and universities across the country has cited subsequent safety and concerns as reason for rejecting requests to accommodate Mr. Spencer in the months since, nonetheless spurring lawsuits this year against the likes of Pennsylvania State University, Ohio State University and Michigan State University, among others.