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White Nationalist speech at Auburn ends with mostly peaceful protests

Photo: Dakota Sumpter / The Auburn Plainsman


By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

AUBURN— White nationalist leader Richard Spencer, known for coining the term “alt-right,” faced down the administrative opposition and hundreds of protestors to speak at Auburn University Tuesday night.

Inside the event, Spencer, who became known nationally for being punched at an anti-Trump rally in January, spoke to a crowd of more than three hundred — about half of which were actually students at Auburn. Others appeared to middle-aged supporters of Spencer’s.

The controversial white nationalist spoke on what he called “white pride” and “white identity,” urging his supporters to reclaim their lives from the “black cloud.” Known for his controversial rhetoric, Spencer didn’t hold back last night when he called facts “lame” and bashed the University for signing black athletes.

Spencer said that college football had become a “billion-dollar circus” and said he would ban college football if he had the choice. He spent much of the night attempting to clarify the “alt-right movement” — a term he coined himself.

Spencer has advocated for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of the United States by the voluntary emigration of non-white people.

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“Diversity makes the world ugly,” Spencer said. “It makes the world lose all meaning. It’s a way of bringing to an end a nation and a culture that was defined by white people. I could go on for hours, but what is good about diversity?”

Auburn Police Chief Paul Register said the protests and counter protests Tuesday night surrounding Spencer’s event resulted in only three arrests.

“I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone,” Register said. “It could have been a lot worse. I attribute the peaceful nature to the students.”

Three non-student arrests were made at about 6 p.m. after a fight between three middle-aged protestors and Spencer supporters.

The controversial white nationalist had promised a showdown with University officials over freedom of speech on public college campuses after officials canceled his planned speech at Foy Hall. That showdown took place more in the courtroom than on Auburn’s campus.

Before the event began Tuesday evening, a federal judge ruled in favor of Richard Spencer’s right to speak on Auburn’s campus. Last week, the University attempted to cancel Spencer’s reservation for their Foy Auditorium.

Spencer announced last week that he planned to make an appearance at Auburn to hold a talk and a forum at the University’s Foy Hall. He rented the auditorium there for $700 and was planning to pay the city for police services.

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The University at first seemed reluctantly supportive of the event, saying they “deplored” his views but supported the First Amendment. But on Friday, the University canceled his event, citing a law enforcement risk assessment and the possibility of “civil unrest.”

“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,” a University spokesperson said in a statement.

The federal judge overturned that cancellation Tuesday afternoon by issuing a temporary restraining order against the university, forcing them to carry out Spencer’s reservation at the University.

The judge said the University did not provide any supporting evidence that Spencer advocated violence.

Written By

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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