AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn University has cancelled the planned speech by undisputed white nationalist Richard Spencer that was originally scheduled for Tuesday night. In a statement posted online, the University said the event was canceled “based on legitimate concerns and credible evidence that it will jeopardize the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors.”
Spencer, none too happy about his cancellation, responded with a twitter video slamming the University for its censorship. “Everything was going so well,” he said. “We were above board on everything, we filled out all the forms, I had already paid for a substantial amount of security, and I was ready to pay the fee for the auditorium itself.”
— Richard 🇸🇾 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) April 14, 2017
Despite the cancellation, Spencer will attempt to show up at Auburn anyway as an act of protest. “If Auburn University thinks that I’m going to back down because they cancelled on me, that I just going to politely go away, then they don’t know me at all,” he said. “I will 100 percent be on Auburn University’s campus at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18.”
Spencer initially planned to hold his event in James E. Foy Hall. He was scheduled to discuss the topics of the Trump presidency, Syria, identity, and the Alt-Right.
Speaker censorship based on vague, or even more concrete, safety concerns has historically failed to pass constitutional muster with the U.S. Supreme Court. In the case of Terminiello v. City of Chicago, an anti-Semitic priest’s speech was shut down and he was arrested for attracting a literal mob outside of the venue. But the court found that mobs and popular opinion do not govern who can and cannot speak in the United States of America.
Justice William O. Douglass wrote:
Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea.”
If he does indeed show, Spencer would not be the first controversial Alt-Right figure to visit a state school. Former Breitbart Editor Milo Yiannopoulos visited both Auburn and The University of Alabama last fall at the invitation of both schools’ College Republican groups.