The lawyer representing white supremacist leader Richard Spencer is threatening to sue the University of Michigan if it does not let Spencer speak on campus.
“A date will be selected by January 15, 2018, at 5:00 p.m., or else suit will be filed; I will not grant another extension as a professional courtesy,” Kyle Bristow, Spencer’s lawyer, emailed U-M general counsel Timothy Lynch in a message that was shared with the Detroit Free Press. “I fear that we are being given the runaround now.”
“There will be no further extension of my client’s demand to be permitted to exercise his constitutional right to free speech,” he added. “We’ve been patient but our patience has its limits.”
University president Mark Schlissel, who is Jewish, announced in November that while he “personally detest[s] and reject[s] the hateful white supremacy and white nationalism expressed by Mr. Spencer,” his hands were tied because the school, as a public university, could not discriminate against Spencer “based solely on the content of that speech, however sickening it is.”
The university entered discussions with Spencer’s representatives over renting space on campus to host an event, but said that was contingent on finding “a reasonably safe setting for the event.” The university offered four dates — Nov. 29, Nov. 30, Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 — but they were rejected by the National Policy Institute, Spencer’s think tank.
Spencer has already sued Michigan State University for refusing his request to speak there. The University of Cincinnati avoided a lawsuit by letting Spencer speak on March 14 — during the school’s spring break.
Student body president Anushka Sarkar said that over 5,000 students have signed a petition against having Spencer speak on campus. “Safety and security of students should be the university’s primary concern,” said Sarkar, according to the Detroit News.
Spencer was one of the organizers of the August rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where clashes between marchers and counter-protesters led to the death of one woman. He has since spoken on college campuses like the University of Florida in October, where security costs were estimated at $600,000 and the governor declared a state of emergency before the speech. Three men were arrested there after shooting at counter-protesters.