White supremacist Richard Spencer requests speaking space at University of Michigan

The white nationalist requested to speak at the University of Michigan.

ANN ARBOR, MICH. - White supremacist Richard Spencer is seeking speaking at the University of Michigan, university officials confirmed Tuesday morning.

A representative of Spencer's group, the National Policy Institute, made the request, U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told the Free Press. The request said there was flexibility with the date.

"The university will carefully consider the request, paying close attention to the safety and security of our community," Fitzgerald said.

The request to speak at U-M isn't the first request the group has made to a Michigan university.

Earlier this year, the group requested space at Michigan State University, which turned down the request.

►Related: MSU sued by Richard Spencer's white supremacist group for refusing space on campus

"After consultation with law enforcement officials, Michigan State University has decided to deny the National Policy Institute’s request to rent space on campus to accommodate a speaker," the university said in a statement then. "This decision was made due to significant concerns about public safety in the wake of the tragic violence in Charlottesville..."

Spencer's group has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have that blockage overturned. Spencer's group has also filed a lawsuit against Ohio State University, which also turned down a request for speaking space.

Robert Sedler, a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University, said courts have established that the overriding principle for public universities when it comes to speech on campus is neutrality toward the content.

"Once it allows access it cannot discriminate on the basis of content," he said, meaning that the university can't prohibit racist speech and allow equality speech.

Even if a public university fears that the speech will incite violence, Sedler said, it must allow it if there's advance notice. The university must protect the speaker and can use law enforcement to prevent violence, he added.

U-M has had controversial speakers in the past, including earlier in October, when Charles Murray appeared on campus. Hecklers shouted at him during the speech and protested his speech. No arrests were made.

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© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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