Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penn State Faces Suit for Snubbing 'Alt-Right' Speaker Richard Spencer a Security Risk, University Said

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Penn State Faces Suit for Snubbing 'Alt-Right' Speaker Richard Spencer a Security Risk, University Said

Article excerpt

A student at a university in Georgia wanted white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak at Penn State University, but PSU president Eric Barron said in August it would be a major security risk and deemed the speaker unwelcome.

Now that Georgia State University student, who is organizing a collegiate speaking tour by Mr. Spencer, is suing, saying the refusal is a violation of free speech rights.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania was filed Thursday on behalf of plaintiff Cameron Padgett, 29. Named as defendants are Mr. Barron and Penn State's board of trustees.

Mr. Spencer is founder of the "alt-right" movement that advocates a whites-only state. He leads the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist group.

The complaint says Mr. Padgett sought to rent a conference room or lecture hall so Mr. Spencer could share with attendees his philosophy.

"Due to the viewpoint of Spencer and NPI, people who are politically left of center find Spencer's and NPI's constitutionally protected political views to be objectionable," the 10-page complaint says.

Mr. Barron's statement on Aug. 22 turning down the request to lease campus space followed violence that month that erupted at white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., which left a woman dead.

Mr. Barron said he considered Mr. Spencer's views "abhorrent." But he said Penn State's decision was based on security considerations.

"After critical assessment by campus police, in consultation with state and federal law enforcement officials, we have determined that Mr. Spencer is not welcome on our campus, as this event at this time presents a major security risk to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus," said Mr. Barron's statement. "It is the likelihood of disruption and violence, not the content, however odious, that drives our decision. …

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