COLUMBUS, Ohio — An associate and organizer 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.
The lawsuit comes after an attorney for the university sent a letter Friday to Spencer associate and Georgia State University graduate student Cameron Padgett that said while the school "values freedom of speech," the request to rent space for Spencer represents a "substantial risk to public safety."
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 $600,000.
An Ohio State spokesman declined to comment Sunday about the lawsuit.
Michigan attorney Kyle Bristow had been threatening to sue Ohio State and 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. Bristow said in a statement Sunday said the event will likely occur early next year.
Bristow successfully sued Auburn University in Alabama to allow Spencer to speak there and has filed lawsuits against Michigan State University and Penn State University that are pending. Bristow claims in the statement that he helped the American Civil Liberties Union when it sued to allow a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August that led to deadly violence when 20-year-old white nationalist James Field Jr., of Ohio, struck and killed a protester 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.
Spencer said he considered the speech a success even though he "wasn't able to talk to people."