Violence Erupts on MSU Campus During Richard Spencer Speech
By David Jesse and RJ Wolcott
As his supporters brawled with protesters outside, Richard Spencer stood inside a Michigan State University building, blaming the violence on his skin color.
"No other group is treated with this kind of hostility," he said during a speech that started more than a half hour late because of the fights going on outside. "It is only us. Precisely because we're white. We're the only ones showing the real crisis in modern America today. There is a silent war going on."
The war was in full evidence Monday afternoon. It started about a half hour before Spencer -- a white supremacist and self-defined leader of the so-called alt-right movement -- was supposed to speak.
A group of about 20 Spencer supporters marched up Farm Lane toward the MSU Pavilion, located on the far south end of campus. Waiting for them were hundreds of protesters, who had been in place for several hours, standing on one end of a large parking lot, chanting and listening to music, while riot gear-clad police watched from the other end of the parking lot.
When the Spencer supporters appeared, the peaceful scene was shattered. Protesters rushed to block the path to the building. Both sides screamed insults and obscenities at each other.
Then fights broke out, with both Spencer supporters and protesters swinging fists and trying to stomp on those who fell on the ground. Police from multiple agencies swarmed, trying to create separation between the two groups.
A total of 24 people were arrested from both groups and charged with a variety of misdemeanors and felonies, said police, who estimated there were 500 protesters. Some had weapons on them when they were arrested, police said.
One woman who was arrested was asked about it as she was led off in zip-tie handcuffs.
"It's OK," she said. "It was for a good cause."
The tone of the next hour and a half was set.
One or more Spencer supporters would park their cars at MSU's recycling station, walk across the street and try to get to the building.
They would be escorted by police, who formed a phalanx around them.
The protesters would swarm the police, often preceded by a few thrown water bottles and rocks, screaming at the supporters, who often screamed back. Then, a protester or two would try to break through the police to get at the supporter, who sometimes fought back. That could end with police tackling one or both and arresting them.
Inside, Spencer praised his movement.
"We are in a position that white identity and white consciousness is deemed illegal effectively, if not quite yet literally. This is the level of the demoralization of our people. Everything that is good in the world is effectively anti-white.
"We entered the real world in 2017. We entered in a big way. We went to Brooklyn. We went to Charlottesville and we shocked the world with a tiki torch rally. Charlottesville was a massive display of energy and defiance.
"Charlottesville was a bit of a disaster, but it is one for the history books. It had consequences. Things got real.
"But let's be honest, good people are staying away because there is violence outside. We gave out three times the amount of tickets than there are people here right now. I don't like it either. I would love to come and give a fun speech, get some fans and have some fun. That would be great, but this is what our lives are going to be like and we can ultimately measure the power of our words and deeds by the degree with which we get opposition. If you're not getting protested, you don't matter. We're going to have to suffer through these birth pangs of becoming a real movement."
"The meek shall never inherit the Earth. The strong and bold will always rule. We will have a say in the definition of this country and the future of the white race. We need to be bold and strong. It will be us who will look fondly on days like this, when the Antifa, the sick freaks, tried to scuttle our conference and failed. They made us recommit to identitarianism."
Police had blocked off the area close to the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education. MSU officials chose to rent out that particular venue -- which is away from the main campus -- to avoid just such an outbreak of fighting.
Earlier, Michael Treeman, 21, of Detroit said he made the trip to East Lansing to protest.
"There's nothing Richard Spencer stands for that is good," he said. "He doesn't deserve speaking time anywhere. We want to let him know there's more people out here who hate what he stands for than who are going to be inside listening."
Erica Mitchell, 29, of Grand Rapids is an MSU alum who said it sickened her that her school was letting him on campus.
"He is full of hate -- that's all," she said. "He's against everyone who isn't white. There shouldn't be any place for that view anywhere in America, much less on a college campus. He's not inclusive -- he's exclusive."
Cameron Padgett, a student at Georgia State University, originally made the request to rent space from MSU.
When MSU received the request, it initially set aside a room at the Union and was going to charge the group $2,000.
Sixteen days later, Spencer's request was made public and the response from MSU's community was swift and overwhelming: Don't let Spencer on campus.
MSU ultimately denied Spencer's National Policy Institute space to speak on campus, citing safety concerns. Spencer's group then sued MSU in federal court.
A federal judge ordered the two sides into mediation. The two sides reached an agreement to let Spencer speak.
Spencer is one of the most visible white nationalists in the U.S. In 2013, he called for a "peaceful ethnic cleansing" at a conference hosted by a white nationalist publication, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The organization calls Spencer "a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis," and one of America's most successful white nationalist leaders.
(c)2018 the Detroit Free Press