- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 10, 2018

Kent State University on Friday rejected a proposed speaking event featuring white nationalist Richard Spencer, defying legal threats and likely spurring a federal First Amendment suit.

Kyle Bristow, an attorney for the proposed event’s organizer, threatened litigation against the Ohio school after administrators reiterated their unwillingness Friday to host a function in May featuring Mr. Spencer, the leader of National Policy Institute think-tank and a prominent figure among the so-called “alt-right” political movement.

“Kent State has responded to Kyle Bristow reaffirming our earlier response that we cannot accommodate this request as no suitable space is available during the April 30-May 12 time frame,” Eric Mansfield, the executive director of university media relations, said in a statement Friday evening.

Mr. Bristow said the school’s response is unconstitutional and that he intends to sue.

“I will not tolerate left-wing university bureaucrats spitting upon the First Amendment rights of right-wingers,” Mr. Bristow told The Record-Courier in Kent, northeast of Akron. “The Constitution trumps their liberal feelings,” he said.

Kent State had been approached in January by Cameron Padgett, a Georgia State University student who schedules Mr. Spencer’s campus appearances, and asked to lease space for an event on May 4, the anniversary of the 1970 shooting where four unarmed students were fatally shot by National Guardsman.

“The weeks of April 30 – May 12 are always an exceptionally busy time on our campus, with numerous activities marking the end of our academic year,” the school said in rejecting the request last month. “Kent State values respectful dialogue from all points of view, including ideology that is controversial or offensive. Consistent with our core values, we encourage open dialogue, freedom of expression and respectful discourse in an inclusive environment.”

Mr. Bristow countered by requesting “an acceptable date and time to be agreed upon” in early May, but he was rebuffed by the school Friday and subsequently threatened to sue.

“This won’t be my first rodeo,” he told The Record-Courier. “To borrow a line from ‘Game of Thrones,’ I will make Kent State University’s administrators bend the knee like the others. I will bring them all to heel. The First Amendment is nonnegotiable.”

Indeed, Mr. Bristow has initiated several free speech lawsuits against colleges across the country after similar requests made by Mr. Padgett suffered the same fate. He successfully sued Auburn University in 2017 after the school refused to host an event starring Mr. Spencer, and more recently he settled with Michigan State University last month over a similar lawsuit.

Mr. Spencer, 39, has led the National Policy Institute since 2011. He had been slated to address the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, but his appearance was canceled after the event infamously collapsed when clashes erupted between counterprotesters and participants including neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Police ultimately connected the chaos to the deaths of two state troopers and a counterprotester, and several colleges have referenced the incident in refusing to host Mr. Spencer ever since, citing related safety and security concerns.

Mr. Padgett has described Mr. Spencer in court documents as a prominent member of 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.” Th Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog group that monitors extremists, have called Mr. Spencer a “professional racist in khakis.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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