Violence Erupts After Judge Forces Auburn University to Let White Nationalist Speak
By Connor Sheets
At least three people were arrested and at least one was left bloodied after dueling demonstrations outside Auburn University's James E. Foy Hall turned raucous before Richard Spencer spoke there Tuesday night.
The speech was a lightning rod for controversy both on campus and online, as the "alt-right" leader's past white supremacist rhetoric proved divisive enough to cause Auburn to cancel the event on Friday.
But Spencer obtained a federal court order Tuesday afternoon that forced the university to allow him to speak as scheduled Tuesday evening.
"We won a major victory for the alt-right," Spencer said of the order during his remarks, which were repeatedly interrupted by shouts from the crowd.
And Spencer did not fail to deliver the kind of inflammatory speech that had raised concerns among many members of the Auburn community and beyond last week.
"The alt-right is about being a white person, being a European in the 21st century," Spencer told the sold-out crowd at one point. "There'd be no history without us," he added later.
Hundreds of people gathered outside Foy Hall before Spencer's speech, many of whom were there to protest his appearance. Auburn police spokesman Capt. Lorenza Dorsey told the Associated Press Tuesday evening that three people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges.
An Auburn student in a neon-orange carrot costume stood outside the hall wearing a sign that said "I don't CARROT ALL about your outrage."
"Basically we have these groups come from off-campus and they expect to be taken seriously and I am not about that at all clearly," he said. "So I just wanted to come. I made this sign, I danced, I took their attention."
During a question-and-answer session following his remarks, an audience member countered Spencer's claim that personal identity comes from race, positing that it is actually formed in God's image.
Spencer replied as follows: "Yes, Jesus was not European, but I will say that this belief system that you embrace is truly a product of centuries of European Christianity ... To simply white out that history in the name of something Paul said is to lose sight of the reality."
Conservatives also came out to show support for Spencer's free speech rights. One conservative who was waiting to attend the event and who identified himself only as Chad, wore a helmet in order to avoid being injured by any rocks that "the other side" might throw if the event descended into chaos.
"We're here to support free speech and defend it because, you know, if that's gone for anybody -- whether you agree with them or not -- they still have the right to speech, and its a slippery slope once you get rid of that," he said.
A Trump supporter who also identified himself only as Chad was holding an American flag as he waited in line for Spencer's speech.
"I think it's important for everybody, even people who are on opposite ends of the political spectrum as me, to be able to come out and speak," he said.
"If people want to hear Mr. Spencer speak, they should be able to do that and he should be able to speak. This is America, it's not the Soviet Union."
But Spencer drew loud boos from people on both sides of the political divide when he declared the following during his speech at football-loving Auburn: "If I could wave a magic wand, I would absolutely ban football!"
Signs posted around Auburn's campus Tuesday cautioned students to stay inside in order to stay safe. Auburn initially cancelled the event last week after it became the subject of red-hot controversy both on campus and on social media.
But in the end the university was forced to host Spencer in Foy Hall Tuesday evening after all when a federal judge in Montgomery issued an order Tuesday afternoon barring it from keeping him from speaking.
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