Ohio State sued for denying Richard Spencer a place to speak
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Ohio State sued for denying Richard Spencer a place to speak

Lawsuit against university comes after school said it wouldn’t host alt-right leader’s speech, due to ‘substantial risk to public safety’

White nationalist Richard Spencer speaks during a press conference at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on October 19, 2017, in Gainesville, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
White nationalist Richard Spencer speaks during a press conference at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on October 19, 2017, in Gainesville, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

The booking agent for white nationalist Richard Spencer has filed a federal lawsuit against The Ohio State University for refusing a request to rent space on campus for a speech by the controversial far-right figure.

The lawsuit was filed Sunday, two days comes after the university informed Cameron Padgett, a graduate student at Georgia State University who handles Spencer’s speaking arrangements, that the request to rent space was denied due to the “substantial risk to public safety.”

“The University values freedom of speech,” the letter from the university’s attorney read. “Nonetheless, the University has determined that it is not presently able to accommodate Mr. Padgett’s request to rent space at the university due to substantial risks to public safety, as well as material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the university.”

Ohio State issued the denial a day after Spencer appeared at the University of Florida, which brought hundreds of protesters and cost the Gainesville university more than $500,000 for security for the event. Prior to the speech, the governor of Florida also declared a state of emergency in the county where the campus is located.

Ohio State, located in Columbus, has more than 2,700 Jewish undergraduates on campus, making up about 6 percent of the student population. There also are about 350 Jewish graduate students on campus.

Buildings on the campus of Ohio State University. (CC BY-SA 4.0, Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia Commons)

The University of Cincinnati, also in Ohio, under the threat of a lawsuit, recently relented to the request to host Spencer, though no date has been set.

Padgett’s attorney on Friday filed a lawsuit against Penn State University after it too turned down a request for Spencer to speak, also on the grounds of public safety.

A man wearing a shirt with swastikas is punched by an unidentified member of the crowd near the site of a planned speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer in Gainesville, Florida, October 19, 2017. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images/AFP)

The University of Florida, home to the largest Jewish student population in the country, allowed Spencer to speak, after initially declining his request, saying that as a public institution, it must uphold the principles of free speech.

Spencer, the founder of a white supremacist think tank, has advocated a white ethno-state that would exclude non-whites and Jews.

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