Tumult After Judge Orders University To Host White Nationalist Richard Spencer

Richard Spencer, who leads a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism, speaks at the Texas A&M University campus Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M officials say they didn't schedule the speech by Spencer, who was invited to speak by a former student who reserved campus space available to the public. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/AP

Protests erupted at Alabama’s Auburn University on Tuesday night, leaving one person bloodied and at least three arrested, after a federal judge’s order forced the school to host a speech by prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer, AL.com reported.

This sort of tumult was exactly what the public university hoped to avoid. While Auburn initially planned to allow the event, administrators canceled it on Friday out of concern about “threats to the safety of our students, faculty and staff.” Spencer took his case to the courts, and a federal judge ruled that the university had to allow the event to take place.

“While Mr. Spencer’s beliefs and message are controversial, Auburn presented no evidence that Mr. Spencer advocates violence,” U.S. District Court Judge W. Keith Watkins said in his ruling, according to CNN, arguing that Spencer had the right to peaceable free speech.

Spencer has previously called for non-white Americans to leave the United States in a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” He also made headlines after the presidential election for exclaiming “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory” at a white nationalist gathering in Washington, D.C.

Hundreds of students turned out to protest Spencer’s address at Auburn’s Foy Hall, where he voiced his usual screed against diversity and extolled the virtues of white people.

“The alt-right is about being a white person, being a European in the 21st century,” he said, according to the Washington Post, later adding, “There’d be no history without us.”

Since the 2016 presidential campaign kicked off, white nationalists and figureheads of the euphemistic “alt-right,” like former Breitbart News editor Milo Yianoppolous, have become household names by bringing their inflammatory message to college campuses. They frame their crusade as one of free speech.

Their support comes from prominent white nationalist figures and publications. Spencer told CNN that his Auburn appearance was sponsored by AltRight.com. He was represented in court by Sam Dickson, an attorney who has spoken at every gathering hosted by the white nationalist American Renaissance publication since the conference’s founding in 1994. Dickson’s biography for the conference describes him as an “advocate for our people since his college days.”

The Post reported that Cameron Padgett, an Atlanta-area resident, put up $700 to rent out Foy auditorium for Spencer’s talk.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK