COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – A Georgia student claims in a federal lawsuit that the Ohio State University violated his free-speech rights by refusing to rent an available public room for a talk by controversial white nationalist leader Richard Spencer.
Cameron Padgett, a resident of Georgia and student at Georgia State University, says in a lawsuit filed Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, federal court that he is organizing a collegiate speaking tour for Spencer to promote his political philosophy.
Padgett, represented by attorney Kyle Bristow of Clinton Township, Mich., sued the board of trustees of the Ohio State University, OSU President Michael Drake and Whitney Rule, the school’s event planning coordinator of the Ohio Union.
The complaint contends that "Spencer is arguably the foremost advocate of alt-right philosophy and is rapidly becoming a major figure in contemporary American politics."
"Alt-right, an abbreviation of alternative right, is a Eurocentric political ideology which advocates the preservation of national identity, a return to traditional Western values, and advances European racial interests,” the lawsuit states. “Race-based preferential treatment for non-Europeans (a/k/a affirmative action), non-European immigration to European countries and their former colonies, international free trade agreements, radical feminism, sexual deviancy, and the ideology of multiculturalism are strongly criticized by adherents of alt-right philosophy.” (Parentheses in original.)
Padgett claims that he and a third party tried to rent the room at OSU for Spencer but were denied because university officials decided Spencer's presence could cause a "substantial risks to public safety.” The complaint cites leftist protestors, specifically those in the Antifa movement.
"Antifa – an abbreviation of antifascist – is an unincorporated and international collective of communists and anarchists who resort to violence as a matter of practice to try to oppress people of a right-of-center political persuasion,” the lawsuit states.
Padgett says he does not consider himself “alt-right,” but subscribes to “identitarian philosophy,” which advocates for the preservation of national identity and a return to traditional Western values.
He claims OSU's denial of the request for a speaking room for Spencer “due to violence implicitly or explicitly threatened by Antifa and not by the speakers of said event” violates his right to free speech.
"Defendants have no reason to believe that plaintiff or Spencer will in fact engage in and/or advocate offensive criminal misconduct," the complaint states, citing Spencer's visits to other colleges campuses as proof of his nonviolent approach.
Padgett seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions requiring OSU officials to rent a publicly available room for Spencer's speech without forcing him to pay for police protection, post a bond or provide insurance for the event.
OSU spokesman Christopher Davey said in a statement, "The university denied a request from Cameron Padgett to rent space on campus after determining that it is not presently able to accommodate this request due to substantial risk to public safety, as well as material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the university."
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