Michigan State University rejects white nationalist event
White nationalist Richard Spencer gives remarks after a white nationalist rally was declared an unlawful assembly, in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (Shaban Athuman /Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
Jeff Karoub, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, August 17, 2017 8:43PM EDT
DETROIT -- Michigan State University on Thursday denied a request by a group headed by white nationalist Richard Spencer to rent space on the campus for a September event, following rejections by other large schools.
The East Lansing school said in a statement the decision was made "due to significant concerns about public safety" and cited last weekend's "tragic violence" in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"While we remain firm in our commitment to freedom of expression, our first obligation is to the safety and security of our students and our community," the statement read.
The University of Florida on Wednesday also denied a request by Spencer's National Policy Institute to rent space, as Texas A&M University had done.
Spencer told The Associated Press Thursday afternoon that Michigan State's decision was "obvious censorship of me, for my views by a public institution." He declined to discuss his legal plans, but his supporters said they planned to file a legal challenge after the University of Florida rejected the request.
Cameron Padgett, a Georgia resident affiliated with Spencer's group, filed a challenge after Auburn University tried to ban Spencer's appearance there in April. A federal judge ruled against Auburn, and the talk was held as planned. The university was also ordered to pay nearly $30,000 in legal fees. Several hundred people attended the event and three people were arrested outside the building during clashes between Spencer's supporters and his opponents.
"There is a clear legal precedent that has been set," Spencer said. "I am standing on very strong legal ground."
Spencer, a leading figure in the white nationalist movement, has popularized the term "alt-right" to describe a fringe movement that is a mix of white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration beliefs. Spencer has advocated for an "ethno-state" that would be a "safe space" for white people.
Spencer was among those who rallied last weekend in Charlottesville in support of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The day included violent clashes and a car crash that killed a woman who was among the counter-demonstrators.
After Donald Trump was elected president, Spencer hosted a conference in Washington that ended with audience members mimicking Nazi salutes after Spencer shouted, "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!"