CINCINNATI -- White nationalist Richard Spencer will either make an October appearance at the University of Cincinnati or sue it for violating his First Amendment rights, lawyer Kyle Bristow said Friday night.
"What I find more offensive (than Spencer's philosophy) is the idea that Ohio should emulate North Korea by shutting down ideas that the government doesn't like," he said.
The ideas for which Spencer has advocated include the establishment of a white ethno-state via "peaceful ethnic cleansing," the belief that the United States "belongs" to white men because "our bones are in the ground" and that the self-evident truth of life on Earth is that "all men are created unequal."
As one of the alt-right's most famous faces, Spencer participated in the Charlottesville, Virginia rally that drew large crowds of armed Neo-Nazis and cost anti-racist activist Heather Heyer her life when a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators. James Fields, a 20-year-old native of Kentucky, stands charged with her murder.
It was fear of a repeat that led other universities to reject his requests to speak on campus in the wake of that event, University of Florida president W. Kent Fuchs wrote on Facebook. The Ohio State University was among them.
Bristow said he believes the real threat of violence at Spencer's speeches would not come from Spencer or his supporters, who at one point responded to his enthusiastic cry of "Hail Trump!" with stiff-armed Nazi salutes, but from "antifa" -- antifascist -- activists on the other end of the political spectrum.
"I don't think the universities are worried about Richard Spencer or his supporters engaging in violence, rather I think they are more worried that the so-called antifa people showing up and causing problems. … There were people on the political left (in Charlottesville) who engaged in horrific acts of violence against people who only wanted to speak freely," Bristow said. "I think, instead of capitulating to the threats of these antifa-type activists, that instead law and order must be maintained so rights can be exercised. "
UC had offered little comment on the situation by Friday night, but emails provided by Bristow showed booking agent Cameron Padgett had reached out to event services and begun the process of securing Spencer a speaking date in late October.
UC spokesman Greg Vehr said Thursday the university had not entered into a contract with Padgett or Spencer and would assess "various safety and logistical considerations" related to the possible visit.
In many past university engagements, both canceled and completed, Padgett and Spencer made their requests to appear without an invitation from a campus club. The University of Cincinnati College Republicans confirmed Friday they had not invited him.
"We have no relationship with Mr. Spencer and have zero interest in inviting him to our campus to speak," the organization's executive board wrote on Facebook. "The University of Cincinnati College Republicans believe in an inclusive and respectful environment in which to promote conservative values on campus. Mr. Spencer and the alt-right do not share those values."
Still, Bristow said, Spencer has a First Amendment right to appear and share his message despite the resistance of any segment of the administration or student body. Any public university that chooses not to host him will be sued.
Bristow emphasized his commitment to pursuing legal action by sharing a motion he filed against Michigan State University, which in early September cited safety concerns in rejecting a request for Spencer to appear.
"It is alarming that, in the United States of America, where citizens are guaranteed the right to freedom of speech, that governmental actors are now coddling and catering to these antifa terrorists, and that's exactly what they are. They are trying to use force and threaten force to infringe on the rights of others, and we're not standing for that," Bristow said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit dedicated to civil rights advocacy, characterizes Spencer, Bristow and Padgett as extremists. Bristow is also the author of a self-published and apparently out-of-print book in which a trio of protagonists attempt to prove that white people were the real native Americans.