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Posted September 5, 2017, 9:20 am CDT
A white supremacist group filed a federal lawsuit on Sunday that claims Michigan State University violated its First Amendment rights by refusing to rent a conference room for a speech by organization founder Richard Spencer.
The suit seeks damages and an injunction to allow Spencer to speak, report the Detroit Free Press and the Associated Press. The plaintiff is Cameron Padgett, a George State University student and the organizer of Spencer’s collegiate speaking tour.
The suit says neither Padgett nor Spencer have been charged with or convicted of a violent crime, and neither advocates criminal conduct. The suit describes Spencer’s group, the National Policy Institute, as a “think tank” that promotes alt-right philosophy but does not advocate criminal conduct.
“Radical leftists” affiliated with the antifa or anti-facist political movement, however, have attacked Spencer and his supporters, the suit says. Banning campus space for Spencer’s speech because of potential violence by antifa “constitutes unconstitutional content discrimination in the form of a heckler’s veto,” the suit says.
The suit notes a prior decision in a suit over a banned Spencer appearance at Auburn University resulted in a preliminary injunction that allowed the speech and a settlement of $29,000. Three people were arrested when Spencer appeared in April at Auburn.
Kent Cassella, a Michigan State spokesman, told the Free Press that the university is aware of the lawsuit.
The decision against renting space to the group “was made due to significant concerns about public safety in the wake of the tragic violence in Charlottesville,” he said. “While we remain firm in our commitment to freedom of expression, our first obligation is to the safety and security of our students and our community.”
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