White nationalist wants to speak on Kent State anniversary

January 18, 2018

FILE – In this Oct. 19, 2017, file photo, white nationalist Richard Spencer speaks at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. A Kent State University spokesman confirmed Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, that Spencer's campus tour organizer is making a bid for him to speak at the Ohio school on May 4, 2018, the anniversary of shootings that killed four students during a Vietnam war protest in 1970. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — White nationalist Richard Spencer won’t be allowed to speak at Kent State University on the anniversary of the fatal Vietnam protest shootings, the school said Thursday, the same day he was approved to speak at Michigan State University in March.

Spencer, a leading figure in the white nationalist movement, and his associates have sought to speak at universities across the country, leading to lawsuits and battles over the fundamental right to free speech at public universities.

His campus tour organizer asked this week to rent space at Kent State’s Student Multicultural Center on May 4 — the date when, in 1970, Ohio National Guard members fired into a crowd protesting the Vietnam war and killed four students. Each year, the school remembers the shootings with events on campus.

The university said it can’t accept the request because the first two weeks in May are too busy with the end of the academic year.

“Kent State values respectful dialogue from all points of view, including ideology that is controversial or offensive,” the university said.

Spencer has been barred by several schools from speaking on campus and has lawsuits pending against some.

Michigan State ended months of legal wrangling Thursday by agreeing to allow Spencer to speak on March 5 during spring break. But he’ll be at the livestock pavilion auditorium, away from the heart of campus.

The deal settles a lawsuit filed when Michigan State cited public safety and refused to rent space.

Under the agreement, Michigan State is paying $27,000 for tour organizer Cameron Padgett’s legal fees while he must come up with at least $2 million in liability insurance.

Spencer’s team announced a lawsuit this month against the University of Cincinnati’s president after the school wouldn’t rent space for Spencer to speak unless a security fee is paid.

Schools that have rejected Spencer’s attempts to speak on their campuses have said they were concerned about the potential for violent clashes and protests.

Minor skirmishes broke out when Spencer spoke at the University of Florida. Three of his supporters were arrested on attempted murder charges after an off-campus shooting later that day.

Authorities estimated spending $600,000 on security costs for the Florida speech.

Spencer has popularized the term “alt-right” to refer to a fringe movement that’s a mix of white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration beliefs. He helped organize a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August that resulted in violence and the death of a woman protesting against the white nationalist agenda.


Associated Press reporter Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.

Update hourly