Kent State denies white nationalist’s request to speak on anniversary of protest shootings

KENT, Ohio-- White nationalist Richard Spencer's request to speak at Kent State University on the anniversary of the fatal Vietnam protest shootings was denied on Thursday.

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.

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.

A Kent State spokesman said Thursday that Padgett has asked to rent space at Kent State's Student Multicultural Center on May 4.

The request for space at Kent State is for 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.

On Thursday, Kent State spokesman Eric Mansfield released the following statement:

"Kent State University has responded to a request from associates of Richard Spencer to speak on campus May 4 that we are unable to accommodate his request. The weeks of April 30 – May 12 are always an exceptionally busy time on our campus, with numerous activities marking the end of our academic year.

"Kent State values respectful dialogue from all points of view, including ideology that is controversial or offensive. Consistent with our core values, we encourage open dialogue, freedom of expression and respectful discourse in an inclusive environment."

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

Spencer's team announced a lawsuit earlier 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.