Controversial white nationalist Richard Spencer has gotten a lot of attention this year, and the most recent is related to a cancelled speaking engagement at Auburn University.
Spencer was famously punched in the face by at least one (possibly two) anti-Trump protesters on Inauguration Day, spawning the now viral “Punch a Nazi” meme. As The Fader reported, one of Richard Spencer’s Inauguration Day jaw checks was widely publicized, as it happened mid-interview. However, days later new pics of a second punching incident on the same day began to circulate.
— IRBF.org.uk (@IRBFUK) January 26, 2017
Last week, it was reported that Richard Spencer was punched again while leading a protest against the recent U.S. military strikes in Syria -and glitter bombed, too. During the event, which took place in Washington D.C., the proud white nationalist was reportedly confronted by counter-protesters who called him a “Nazi” and told him to “go home.” He was reportedly also being protected from violence by the U.S. Secret Service and police as he was chased across the park, beaten and showered with glitter in the altercation.
You can check out video of the drama below. Warning: the video contains strong language.
— Ash J (@AshAgony) April 8, 2017
And the glittering of Richard Spencer can be seen below.
— Brett Banditelli (@banditelli) April 9, 2017
Reports from those on the scene indicate that while white nationalist Richard Spencer tried to leave the scene before the violent drama ensued in D.C., he wasn’t able to escape his own notoriety or the wrath of those who truly believe it’s okay to “Punch a Nazi” – and who believe Spencer fits the definition.
“When he was getting into the cab he was allegedly pulled out by counter-protesters, punched, and glitter bombed. In a video posted on Periscope shortly there after, Spencer said what happened was that Antifa disallowed him to get in his ‘getaway’ car and the police instructed him to get in a cab. Once he was in one the cab driver (who Spencer mocked for being of Indian origin) got out of the cab, frightened of the ensuing protesters, and Spencer had to take off running.”
Just ten days after the Washington D.C. debacle, Richard Spencer was slated to speak at Auburn University in Alabama. As The Plainsman reported, Spencer paid the University $700 for rent in order to speak on campus on April 18, and that’s on top of the additional cash the white nationalist reportedly shelled out to defray security costs with the Auburn Police Department. However, despite his planning and financial investment in the college speaking opportunity, Auburn University leaders cancelled the event.
Now, Richard Spencer is threatening to push forward with the speaking engagement whether the school wants him there or not. And despite initial plans to remain “civilized” at the school, now that he’s been shut down, Spencer is no longer promising civility.
“They think they have shut this down but they haven’t. I will give a speech on their campus. It is a public place. I think Auburn University is naive and has totally misunderstood who I am if they think that I am going to politely back out of this. I will be there 100 percent”
— big baby (@bigbaebey) April 14, 2017
Richard Spencer to appear at Auburn University this week. Good, I've been yearning for some Nazi punching recently.
— John M (@John_M15) April 16, 2017
@TeenVogue He has the right to free speech. We have the right to close our ears to vile unconscionable words.
— Dee Miller (@DJMille56681824) April 16, 2017
— Alt????Kek (@RealMemeAlert) April 15, 2017
In fact, instead of the small, civilized event he’d planned for, Richard Spencer now promises to go big on Auburn campus, which he says is a public place.
“What I’m going to do now is I’m going to make this into a massive event. This is going to be a huge challenge to see whether we have free speech in the United States or whether we don’t.”
Richard Spencer is, officially, president and director of the controversial National Policy Institute, and has built a brand for himself based on his open “alt-right” opinions, including racism, populism and white nationalism. In the past, his organization has been under fire due to its publicly touted calls for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
As for Auburn University, the college released a statement on Friday announcing its cancellation of the Richard Spencer event. The university claimed to have coordinated with law enforcement and to have determined that the white nationalist’s planned public appearance could put the safety of many people in jeopardy.
“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.
White nationalist leader Richard Spencer plans to speak at Auburn University in Alabama on Tuesday. Spread the word to anti-racist students! pic.twitter.com/Pbuy8EVnLK
— Atlanta Antifascists (@afainatl) April 12, 2017
While the school’s reasoning appears sound, and in accordance with recommendations from local police, Richard Spencer refuses to be shuttered. He has accused Auburn of giving into threats of violence and “heckler’s vetoes.” What’s more, Spencer promises to be there as planned, not to back down and that Auburn will “rue the day” that they tried to silence his unpopular opinions.
“I’m not going to allow that to happen. Auburn is going to rue the day that they made this total bull***t decision. I will not back down. I will be there. This is going to be so much bigger than they ever imagined.”
The white nationalist also took to social media to share his plan to fly his own folks to the school and to purchase safety gear. Perhaps ironically, anti-Trump and other left wing protesters have faced accusations of being paid and/or imported into various events across the country since the 2016 election.
We are flying people to Auburn and purchasing safety gear. We really need your help. I wouldn't ask if it weren't true.
— Richard ???????? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) April 14, 2017
Richard Spencer’s vow to show up and speak at Auburn University comes amid the latest clashes between anti-Trump and alt-right protesters at Berkeley in California on Saturday. As The Los Angeles Times reported, hundreds of protesters from both sides of the aisle clashed around Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in the midst of a “Patriots Day” rally at the largely liberal school. Physical altercations reportedly ensued, and rocks and tear gas were thrown, hundreds of police were “deployed,” and 21 people were arrested in the melee.
"Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (BERKELEY BEATDOWN EDITION) pic.twitter.com/pMOkISPqzJ
— The Swog Blog (@TheSwogBlog) April 16, 2017
Spencer used his Twitter account to pay homage to the destruction and violence at Berkeley amid promises that he and his supporters will appear at (or be flown to) Auburn University on the 18.
The white nationalist is also featuring a pinned tweet of a YouTube video pleading to “Let Spencer Speak.”
— Richard ???????? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) April 14, 2017
According to Richard Spencer, Auburn University is attempting to stymie his first amendment rights, but both the school and police confirm that his engagement was cancelled due to safety concerns, and that an assessment from the Auburn Police Division led to the decision to pull the plug on the controversial alt-right event.
The division released a statement supporting the school’s decision to cancel the Spencer event, citing the importance of keeping people safe vs. hosting potentially riot-inducing speaking events.
“Based on an assessment of possible civil unrest and criminal activity during a requested event, it is the opinion of the Auburn Police Division that allowing Mr. Richard Spencer to proceed with his appearance at Foy Hall on April 22 would pose a real threat to public safety. We believe Auburn University’s decision to keep students and others safe is appropriate at this juncture.”
What do you think about the decision of Auburn University to cancel the scheduled appearance of white nationalist Richard Spencer? Does public safety trump free speech, or is it more important for everyone’s views, no matter how controversial, to be heard?
[Featured Image by David J. Phillip/AP Images]