Spencer is learning that just because you have freedom of speech, it doesn’t mean everyone elses’ freedom of association takes a back seat.
In the wake of the Unite the Right rally, White Supremacists have been feeling the backlash from a number of circles, be it rally attendees getting fired from jobs and even disowned by their families to websites like Stormfront.org – the oldest and longest running neo-Nazi website – and DailyStormer.com getting all but removed from the internet, to most if all arrests stemming from the Aug. 12 event in Charlottesville being all reputed neo-Fascists. The National Policy Institute (NPI) and its President Richard Spencer is feeling a different kind of blowback – a proposed college speaking tour planned for Spencer that is being decimated by colleges and universities shutting their campus gates to the White supremacist organization.
Before the Charlottesville rally, Spencer, who was supposed to speak there before Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a State of Emergency and shut down the event, had been able to visit college campuses and speak, even while scores of angry students and local residents protested either inside the venue or just outside. But after the rally where neo-Fascists attacked and fought with protesters and cost the life of 32-year-old Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer when one neo-Fascist drove into a crowd of people, his fortunes changed. Several campuses began denying Spencer a place to speak on their campuses. Michigan State University rejected NPI’s request for a space to hold a speaking engagement. Officials at the University of Chicago had declined his request to speak there in an email exchange released the day after the Unite the Right rally.
Texas A&M, which hosted Spencer last November, shut down his plans to speak at an All Lives Matter rally on Sept. 11, and a speaking engagement at the University of Florida the next day was also scuttled, although threats of lawsuits and rallies for that day resulted in discussions with University officials and Spencer to arrange another day if possible. The University of North Carolina also turned Spencer away, citing safety issues. On Aug 19, the president of Penn State University took it further, putting out a statement saying that Richard Spencer will not be welcome on campus in light of the violence in Charlottesville. “I disagree profoundly with the content that has been presented publicly about this speaker’s views, which are abhorrent and contradictory to our university’s values,” he said in the statement. “There is no place for hatred, bigotry or racism in our society and on our campuses.”
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last February, which was punctuated by Spencer being kicked out of the event, Penn State student James O’Malia invited him to speak on campus. O’Mailia is a member of what he called the”alt-right club at Penn State”called the Bull-Moose Party who’s newspaper website made a misguided analogy between Barron and the Unite the Right rally, saying, “Barron would seek to do to us at Penn State exactly what the Virginia government did to the (Emancipation) Park demonstration – deny a platform to and direct repression against the people who wish to speak, instead of protecting them from those who seek to prevent them from speaking.”
In May, Spencer held the first of the three rallies in Charlottesville to protest the removal of Confederate monuments, notably the statues of Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, and the renaming of the respective parks originally named after them. In May, Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard Moore agreed to a six-month injunction prohibiting the removal of the Lee statue from what is now known as Emancipation Park while the lawsuit continued, and while the City Council initially planned to leave the Jackson statue in place, it has taken to first steps toward having that monument removed as well after the events of the Unite the Right rally. Both the Lee and Jackson statues have since been covered with black tarps as a symbol of mourning for Heyer, and there are calls to rename the park after her. This week at MTV’s Video Music Awards (VMAs) Heyer’s mother and a descendant of Robert E. Lee announced the launch of the Heather Heyer Foundation which will give scholarships to other activists.