According to BuzzFeed, students at Auburn University are protesting a white nationalist's pledge to give a speech at their school. Richard Spencer was originally set to speak at the Alabama university on Tuesday, but after a subsequent uproar, administrators canceled the speech. However, Spencer told BuzzFeed Friday that he plans to show up at the campus on Tuesday and speak regardless. Campus chapters of Hillel and the Southern Poverty Law Center have denounced Spencer, who once called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing" of minorities in America, as well as the university's initial willingness to host him.
Spencer's speech wasn't planned or organized by school administrators. As a public university, Auburn University makes its space available for rent, and according to AL.com, Spencer paid $700 to rent a room. The pushback was immediate, given Spencer's views, and a "Protest Richard Spencer at AU" Facebook group popped up shortly after the announcement. On Friday, the university announced that Spencer wouldn't be speaking after all.
"In consultation with law enforcement, Auburn canceled the Richard Spencer event scheduled for Tuesday evening based on legitimate concerns and credible evidence that it will jeopardize the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors," Auburn wrote in a statement. However, Spencer says he's going to speak on the campus anyway.
Just got off phone w/ Richard Spencer. Despite his Auburn speech being canceled he said he's going there anyway Tues https://t.co/iflJU3JmDR— Julia Reinstein (@juliareinstein) April 14, 2017
"I will be on the Auburn University campus at 7 PM on Tuesday, April 18th," he told BuzzFeed. "And I will hold a speech." It's unclear where he intends to give the speech.
Spencer, who attended the Republican National Convention with a sign reading "Wanna Talk To A Racist?," rose to prominence shortly after Donald Trump was elected president. In a speech at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington D.C., Spencer shouted "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!" Several attendees responded with Nazi salutes, as seen in video of the event obtained by the Atlantic. Spencer claimed that the salute was "done in a spirit of irony and exuberance." He was later punched in the face.
The controversy at Auburn is reminiscent of one that arose at UC Berkeley earlier in the year. In February, alt-right poster child Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to give a speech at the left-leaning campus by Berkeley College Republicans, but the event was canceled last minute after massive protests erupted against him the night the speech was to take place. Given that those protests involved property damage, it's understandable that Auburn decided to cancel Spencer's speech and avoid such an outcome on their campus.