A jury trial to decide whether white nationalist Richard Spencer must pay a $10,000 security fee to speak on University of Cincinnati’s campus will take place more than a year from now, according to filings from a federal judge yesterday.
The trial over a lawsuit brought by Spencer supporter Cameron Padgett, a student at Georgia State University, will begin March 18, 2019.
Padgett and other Spencer supporters say the security fee infringes on Spencer’s First Amendment rights to free speech. The university, on the other hand, points to expenses other universities have wracked up due to violence associated with Spencer’s appearances.
The University of Florida spent more than $500,000 on security for a Spencer speech Oct. 19, 2017, for instance. Protests outside led to five minor injuries and two arrests, and during the speech, a large crowd booed and heckled the white nationalist. That event was the first after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. that Spencer helped organize. Anti-racism activist Heather Heyer died at that protest after a man drove his car into a crowd of demonstrators.
More recently, violence broke out at a Spencer speech at Michigan State University, where protests against and in support of Spencer led to a number of arrests, including eight on felony charges. Crowds blocked entrances to Spencer’s speech at the Lansing, Mich. event and shouted him down.
The upcoming jury trial is the latest in a series of court actions taken by Padgett on Spencer’s behalf. Originally, Padgett threatened to sue a number of universities, including UC, Ohio State University and others, if they refused to accommodate Spencer with a venue where he could discuss his beliefs. OSU declined to host Spencer on campus, citing security concerns.
“The University determined that such an event could not be accommodated at Ohio State at this time without substantial risk to public safety and material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the University,” the school said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed.
Padgett later dropped the suit against OSU, but has pressed on with his claims against UC. Padgett and his attorney at the time, Kyle Bristow, requested a jury trial earlier this year over the fees. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott will preside over that trial in Ohio’s Southern District Court.
Bristow has since removed himself from the case, citing negative media coverage he’s received. Suburban Cincinnati attorney James Kolenich replaced Bristow earlier this year. Kolenich represented various far-right activists in court proceedings around the Unite the Right rally and is well known for holding white nationalist and anti-Semitic ideologies similar to Spencer’s.