Richard Spencer
Spencer is a leader and spokesperson for the so-called alt-right movement. Source: Twitter

An associate and organiser of campus tours for white nationalist Richard Spencer sued Ohio State University in federal court on Sunday after school officials refused to rent campus space for Spencer to speak.

In a letter acquired by The Guardian, a lawyer for Ohio State explained that the university was unable to grant the request for room rental due to “substantial risk to public safety.”

“The university has deemed that it is not presently able to accommodate Mr. Padgett’s request to rent space at the university due to substantial risk to public safety, as well as material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the university,” the letter said.

Cameron Padgett, who is referenced in the lawyer’s letter, is a Georgia State University graduate student who organises tours for Spencer. It was Padgett who made the request to rent space on campus for an event with Spencer.

Columbus attorney Michael Carpenter wrote that the decision was made after university officials conferred with law enforcement authorities and considered what had occurred during Spencer’s speech on Thursday at the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. The Florida governor declared a state of emergency in the county that includes Gainesville. Security costs for the event have been estimated at US$600,000.

According The Associated Press (via ABC news), Padgett’s attorney Kyle Bristow, also threatened to sue the University of Cincinnati on behalf of Padgett if they refused to rent space for Spencer to speak.

University of Cincinnati officials relented earlier this month but have not set a date for Spencer’s appearance.

Lawsuits against Michigan State University and Penn State University are also pending. One such case against Auburn University in Alabama proved successful for Bristow and his client.

In a statement released Sunday, Bristow claims he also worked with the American Civil Liberties Union when it sued to allow a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, back in August. The demonstration by alt-right protestors led to violence when 20-year-old white nationalist James Field struck and killed counter-protester Heather Heyer with his car.

“I guarantee that wherever I am, whatever circumstances may arise, the Alt-Right shall enjoy the right to free speech,” Bristow said Sunday.

Counter-protesters far outnumbered Spencer supporters and mostly drowned out his University of Florida speech with anti-Nazi chants, booing him off the stage under the watchful eye of police officers in riot gear.

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