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Ohio State Will Be Sued For Not Allowing Richard Spencer To Speak On Campus

Chris O'Meara
Associated Press
White Nationalist Richard Spencer Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

A lawyer for white nationalist Richard Spencer says he will file a federal lawsuit against The Ohio State University after officials refused to allow him to rent space on campus.

A letter from Ohio State late Friday cited "substantial risk to public safety, as well as material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the University."

Michigan attorney Kyle Bristow told Ohio State officials early this week that he sought "an unequivocal and unconditional assertion that Ohio State University will in fact permit my client, Cameron Padgett, to rent a publicly available room on a date to be determined for Richard Spencer to speak."

After Ohio State failed to respond by his Friday afternoon deadline, Bristow said he would proceed with his lawsuit.

“No response from OSU. Suit will be filed,” Bristow wrote in an email to WOSU. He added, “Alea iacta est,” a Latin phrase meaning “the die is cast.”

Bristow’s suit seeks monetary damages and an injunction to force the school to rent space. He said he looked to schedule Spencer's speech for sometime this winter.

On October 13, Ohio State senior vice president Christopher Culley said that the school could not accommodate Padgett's request safely, but Bristow held off from suing while the school looked into "other alternatives."

"The trampling upon the First Amendment by university bureaucrats who have no respect for the right of free speech will in no way be tolerated by Padgett," wrote Bristow in his letter.

But those alternatives failed to materialize as he wanted.

Padgett sued Penn State University on Friday after officials rejected his request there, as well. That suit also seeks damages and an injunction.

Padgett, a student at Georgia State, requested space on behalf of the National Policy Institute for Spencer to speak at Ohio State back in September. 

Bristow gave a similar ultimatum to the University of Cincinnati last week, which ultimately decided they would "uphold the First Amendment" and allow Spencer to speak.

In a letter to Bristow, Ohio State attorney Michael Carpenter said the university "values freedom of speech" but could not currently accommodate their request.

"In reaching this determination, the University has considered the information presently available, including, but not limited to, consultation with law enforcement, and yesterday's events at the University of Florida," Carpenter wrote.

Spencer spoke Thursday at the University of Florida in Gainesville, after a similar back-and-forth with the school, which originally rejected his request. Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency before the event, where protesters outnumbered Spencer's supporters at least 10-to-1.

The National Policy Institute paid just over $10,000 to rent space at the university, but it cost at least $500,000 to boost security for the event. Though the protests remained relatively peaceful, three Texas-area supporters of Spencer shot at protesters after the event, and were arrested and charged with attempted homicide.