A federal judge has ordered Auburn University to let white nationalist Richard Spencer speak on campus in the venue he earlier reserved.
Spencer had paid to rent the university’s Foy Hall auditorium on Tuesday, but Auburn later canceled the event, citing security risks.
The judge overruled that decision.
“This afternoon, a federal judge ruled that Auburn must allow Spencer to speak in the Foy Auditorium tonight,” said a joint statement Tuesday from Timothy R. Boosinger, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Taffye Benson Clayton, associate provost and vice president for inclusion and diversity.
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“It is now more important than ever that we respond in a way that is peaceful, respectful, and maintains civil discourse,” it said. “We are aware that various campus groups have planned events for this evening. Please know that additional security measures are being taken by the Auburn Police Division to uphold the safety of our community.”
The statement defended the university’s earlier decision to cancel the event:
“Auburn University supports the rights and privileges afforded by the First Amendment. However, when the tenets of free speech are overshadowed by threats to the safety of our students, faculty, and staff, we have a responsibility to protect our campus and the men and women who unite our academic community. The decision to cancel the Richard Spencer event last week was informed by leadership from all of the university’s shared governance groups and the Auburn Police Division, all of whom articulated legitimate concerns for the safety and security of our campus.”
Spencer runs the National Policy Institute and is known for his racially charged rhetoric. He is credited with coining the phrase “alt-right” for views so radical they conflict with established conservative ideology.
“Spencer advocates for an Aryan homeland for the supposedly dispossessed white race and calls for ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’ to halt the ‘deconstruction’ of European culture,” says the Southern Poverty Law Center that tracks hate groups. “But even some of the Europeans he lionizes have rejected him; in October 2014, his attempt to hold an NPI conference in Budapest, Hungary, resulted in his arrest and expulsion.”