Racist organizer Richard Spencer speaks at Auburn University, sparking massive protests

Racist organizer Richard Spencer speaks at Auburn University, sparking massive protests
Source: AP
Source: AP

Richard Spencer, the racist white nationalist activist perhaps best known for taking a punch to the face at President Donald Trump's inauguration, spoke at Alabama's Auburn University after a federal judge ruled at the last moment the event must go forward. 

U.S. District Court Judge W. Keith Watkins granted Spencer's request for an injunction at the last minute after the university canceled his planned address for safety reasons, CNN reported. As Spencer arrived on campus, hundreds of protesters descended on the area surrounding James E. Foy Hall, resulting in at least one fight with an injury reported and two arrests, according to AL.com.

Spencer is notorious for organizing white supremacist conferences through the National Policy Institute, and is widely-considered one of the most visible faces of the extremist "alt-right" movement which came to prominence amid the rise of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential elections. At a conference in Washington, D.C., Spencer toasted the Third Reich and led attendees in cheers of "Heil Trump!"

Students staged an #AuburnUnites music festival to promote a peaceful response to Spencer's visit, according to the student paper, the Plainsman.

Inside, Spencer proclaimed his address was a victory for free speech even as protesters and hecklers inside the hall challenged him on his hateful message.

"The alt-right is about being a white person, being a European in the 21st century," Spencer told the crowd, AL.com reported, later adding, "There'd be no history without us."

At another point during the speech, Spencer denounced white guilt and proclaimed he was willing to "own" atrocities committed by whites throughout history in pursuit of the "destiny" of a "new world of power."

Spencer shouted European colonists had stolen the continental U.S. from its native populace, continuing, "I'm willing to own slavery. I'm willing to own the terrible things that the white race has committed against other races ... the things we have done to our own people, and these stupid, disgusting internecine wars."

Spencer touted his goal: "Creating a new world in our image! A new world of beauty! A new world of power!"

At times, Spencer was nearly drowned out by the raucous crowd, which yelled challenges to his rambling points on everything from white history to football.

By the time Spencer was done speaking, the protest outside had exploded, with hundreds more people assembled. Anti-fascist organizers chanted, "Alerta! Alerta! Anti-fascista!"

However, as of shortly before 10:00 p.m. Eastern, the protests remained largely peaceful. Witnesses told BuzzFeed News Spencer eventually left the building accompanied by his personal security cadre, some of whom abandoned gear as they were pursued off campus by members of the protest group.

Spencer may have problems other than demonstrators to worry about. The National Policy Institute recently lost its tax-exempt status after Spencer failed to understand the paperwork required.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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