University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on Wednesday became the latest school to turn down white nationalist Richard Spencer’s request to speak on campus after his participation in a violent racist free-for-all rally on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month.
“Our basis for this decision is the safety and security of the campus community—we are not willing to risk anyone’s safety in light of these known risks,” UNC chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement.
“I am deeply saddened and disturbed that the violent and virulent rhetoric being espoused by extremist groups has jeopardized the ability of campuses to promote robust dialogue and debate about important issues while ensuring public safety,” Folt’s statement continued.
This makes UNC at least the sixth school to rebuff Spencer, who has made a strategy of speaking on public college campuses in order to provoke his critics and recruit young people into his movement. Texas A&M, Michigan State, Louisiana State, University of Florida, and Pennsylvania State have already turned down requests by Spencer to rent facilities or address students from public spaces on campus.
Spencer’s allies have threatened legal action, and First Amendment experts surveyed by TPM said he would have a strong case, noting that the strength of free speech protections in public spaces and the difficulty of proving that Spencer has or would directly call for violence.
A federal judge ruled last year that Auburn University had to allow Spencer to speak after school officials and police canceled his event, expressing serious concerns about the threat to public safety.
To date, no new lawsuits have been filed.
Spencer may simply have more pressing issues to attend to. As part of a broader post-Charlottesville crackdown on hate groups, Squarespace dropped web service for Spencer’s National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank based in Alexandria, Virginia.
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