City leaders plan for arrival of white nationalist Richard Spencer

CINCINNATI -- City leaders plan to “confront hate with love” when a white nationalist leader speaks at the University of Cincinnati.

The University of Cincinnati announced Friday evening they will allow white nationalist leader Richard Spencer to speak uninvited on campus.

The decision came after hours of closed-door debate among university trustees and threats from Spencer's legal team, who issued an ultimatum: The university would agree by Friday to let Spencer speak or it would face a First Amendment suit from his lawyer, fellow white supremacist Kyle Bristow.

Several group leaders across Cincinnati met Saturday -- not to bash the university’s decision, but to create a call to action for Spencer’s upcoming speech.

Pastor Damon Lynch III said he hopes Spencer doesn’t follow through, but if he does, Lynch said he wants Spencer to know his ideologies of white supremacy are not welcome in Cincinnati.

“We have to stand up. People in Cincinnati are deciding ‘What do we do? Do we ignore him? Nobody listen? Or do we confront,’” Lynch said.

University of Cincinnati student Kevin Kowal said he does not support Spencer, but he appreciates UC’s mindfulness of the First Amendment.

"We want to make it clear that we're not opposed to the university to allow him to speak. We're very opposed to his hateful message,” Kowal said.

Robert Richardson, Cincinnati NAACP president, said he thinks Spencer is using the First Amendment as a guise to spew hate and racist views.

“We can’t stand by quietly when he comes to spew hate and division in the country,” Richardson said.

Spencer helped organize and headline the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where anti-racist protester Heather Heyer was killed.

"We can't forget Charlottesville. We can't forget Heather who lost her life,” Lynch said.

Troy Jackson, director of the Amos Project, said those who are indifferent are standing on the wrong side of history.

“We welcome this opportunity to all people of good will and all people of faith to stand, speak and to be counted. To stand on the side of love, the side of humanity,” Jackson said.

In his Friday afternoon letter, University of Cincinnati President Neville G. Pinto denounced Spencer's ideology and promised to prioritize student safety in preparation for the event, the date of which has not been finalized.

WCPO Web Editor Sarah Walsh contributed to this report. 

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