- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 21, 2017

Universities in Ohio and Pennsylvania are facing legal pressure to accommodate white nationalist Richard Spencer following his speaking engagement this week at the University of Florida, his first on-campus appearance since participating in the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Kyle Bristow, an attorney representing Cameron Padgett, Mr. Spencer’s booking agent, said he plans to sue the Ohio State University after an attorney for the school sent a letter Friday denying a request to let the racist “alt-right” figure and National Policy Institute president rent space on campus next month.

“The University values freedom of speech,” Ohio State attorney Michael Carpenter wrote in Friday’s rejection letter. “Nonetheless, the University has determined that it is not presently able to accommodate Mr. Padgett’s request to rent space at the University due to substantial risk to public safety, as well as material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the University.”

“Suit will be filed,” Mr. Bristow wrote in an email to reporters Friday after hearing from Mr. Carpenter. “Alea iacta est,” he added – a Latin phrase meaning “the die is cast.”

Mr. Carpenter did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Mr. Bristow hadn’t formally sued Ohio State as of Saturday afternoon, according to court records, but a recent filing suggests he’ll follow through: He sued Pennsylvania State University a day earlier in federal court after administrators there similarly quashed efforts to accommodate Mr. Spencer on account of security concerns raised after “Unite the Right” descended into chaos that authorities linked to the death of a counterprotester and two state troopers.

“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,” Penn State President Eric Barron said in his decision denying Mr. Spencer. “It is the likelihood of disruption and violence, not the content, however odious, that drives our decision.”

Mr. Bristow sued Penn State in federal court in Harrisburg Thursday, alleging its president’s decision “constitutes unconstitutional content discrimination in the form of a heckler’s veto,” according to the 17-page complaint filed on Mr. Padgett’s behalf.

Court documents in the lawsuit against Penn State did not list an attorney for the school to reach for comment.

The suit seeks monetary damages and an injunction allowing Mr. Spencer to rent space on Penn State — hardly the first school to be sued for trying to keep him off campus. A federal judge notably issued a restraining order in April barring Auburn University in Alabama from “cancelling, prohibiting or preventing listeners from attending” a campus event featuring Mr. Spencer after administrators tried canceling over safety concerns months before his appearance in Charlottesville.

Another attorney for Mr. Spencer previously threatened to sue the University of Florida after administrators refused to rent him space on campus a month after “Unite the Right,” but the school relented and leased him a venue this past Thursday, facilitating his first on-campus speaking engagement since Charlottesville.

Five people were ultimately arrested in connection with Mr. Spencer’s event at the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus Thursday, including three people charged with attempted homicide in connection with a shooting that took place shortly after his address concluded.

Mr. Spencer, 39, is widely credited with coining the term “alt-right,” a political movement frequently associated with anti-Semitism and white nationalism. He’s led the National Policy Institute think-tank since 2011, a group labeled a white supremacist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog that tracks extremists.

“I’m very pleased that there was no serious violence or major injuries,” he told The Washington Times following Thursday’s event.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide