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Michigan university sued for denying white supremacist group a place to speak on campus

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Michigan State University is being sued after rejecting a request by a white nationalist group to speak on campus. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

A lawsuit has been filed against Michigan State University for its decision to reject a request from the white supremacist group, led by Richard Spencer, to speak at a campus conference center.

The suit, which was filed in federal district court late Sunday night, alleges that the university violated Spencer's freedom of speech and First Amendment rights by not allowing him to speak on campus. Spencer is the president and director of the National Policy Institute, a group that describes itself as "dedicated to the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent," according to USA Today.

Spencer's tour organizer, Georgia State University student Cameron Padgett, filed the lawsuit after his request to rent a conference room for Spencer at MSU's on-campus Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center was denied.

MSU announced in August that it would deny space for the group, citing the recent violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one woman dead after an alleged white supremacist ran his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.

"After consultation with law enforcement officials, Michigan State University has decided to deny the National Policy Institute’s request to rent space on campus to accommodate a speaker," the university said in a statement in August. "This decision was made due to significant concerns about public safety in the wake of the tragic violence in Charlottesville last weekend."

According to the New York Times, Spencer sent his support of Padgett to The Associated Press through text message Sunday night.

"Cameron Padgett is a brave young man who has my full support," Spencer said.

MSU has previously allowed controversial speakers on campus, including "alt-right" firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos, who visited the campus in December. Although seven people were arrested for disorderly conduct surrounding the event, a spokesperson for MSU insisted even unpopular viewpoints were welcome on campus.

"[S]peakers from all political persuasions are welcome at MSU. If anywhere, universities should be places for viewpoints to be debated," an MSU spokesperson said at the time.

In the last week, the University of Florida and Texas A&M University have denied requests from the National Policy Institute to speak on campus, citing similar concerns of violence.

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