White nationalist’s college tour mired in litigation

Posted at 3:18 PM, Feb 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-25 15:25:29-05

CINCINNATI (AP) — White nationalist Richard Spencer plans to speak next week at Michigan State University, but the rest of his campus tour has bogged down for now in lawsuits or lack of agreement on timing because of safety concerns.

His March 5 visit will come while MSU students are on spring break. He had planned to come to the University of Cincinnati during that school’s spring break March 14, but that fell through over the Ohio school’s demand for a security fee.

Ohio State University and Kent State have declined to accommodate Spencer speech requests so far.

Attorney Kyle Bristow sued Ohio State on behalf of Spencer tour organizer Cameron Padgett after the school last year refused to book Spencer. He has threatened to sue Kent State after the Ohio school rejected a request for a May 4 visit. Kent State said the school was too busy that time of year with end-of-year activities. The pretrial schedule for the Ohio State lawsuit extends past spring commencement in May.

Bristow said the self-styled “alt-right” spokesman still hopes to work out a date to speak at the University of Michigan this summer. Bristow said he won’t tolerate “left-wing university bureaucrats spitting upon the First Amendment rights of right-wingers.”

Spencer advocates a white “ethno-state” and espouses anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant beliefs.

He was a scheduled speaker at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August that led to deadly violence when a man struck and killed a protester with his car. For a subsequent Oct. 19 appearance at the University of Florida , authorities estimated security costs at $600,000.

The University of Cincinnati last October agreed to allow Spencer to speak, with its board of trustees publicly condemning hate while citing the fundamental right to free speech at a public university. But Bristow sued in January after the school demanded nearly $11,000 for a security fee, which it later said was a “mere fraction” of expected costs. The case is pending before a federal judge.

Michigan State says “all appropriate security measures” will be taken with the Spencer appearance, which was scheduled in settlement of a lawsuit. An MSU spokesman said in statement that the school rejects “divisive and racist messages.”

Bristow said Spencer will also take part at a March 4-5 “Alt-Right Conference” in Detroit, with attendees invited to go to the Michigan State talk.

In response to a question, the school responded by email that Spencer’s appearance isn’t a school-sponsored event and MSU is “simply the venue.”

Spencer will speak at the school’s agriculture and livestock education pavilion.