Ohio State was sued for its third and latest denial of requested event space for white supremacist Richard Spencer. What now?
The ball is in the university’s court, according to Elizabeth Cooke, a lawsuit, courts and procedures expert.
Ohio State has 60 days to respond to a complaint filed in federal court Sunday by Spencer’s lawyer Kyle Bristow, according to the lawsuit. In its response, the university can either confirm or deny the statement of facts regarding the court case — notes recorded on the interaction between the university and Spencer leading up to the filing — said Cooke, a clinical professor of law at the Moritz College of Law.
Then legal and factual tests will take place to determine constitutional issues and factual issues in both sides’ statements, Cooke said.
These facts range from discussion on the ideological beliefs of Cameron Padgett — the Georgia State University graduate student who submitted the requests to use Ohio State’s space to host Spencer — to Spencer’s lack of criminal record. In the complaint, Bristow asserted both Spencer and Padgett bring little to no danger with them during speaking engagements.
Bristow is also seeking $75,000 in damages in the suit against Ohio State.
“The First Amendment gets a lot of reverence because [Americans] hold those First Amendment rights very dear,” Cooke said. “At the same time, universities are very concerned about their abilities for keeping people safe and those rights sometimes seem to come in conflict,” she said.
In the complaint, Bristow is suing for Padgett’s right to rent a space for Spencer and not be required to pay for police presence.
It cost $500,000 for the University of Florida to provide safety and security detail for Spencer’s visit Thursday, according to Time Magazine.
Ohio State cited safety concerns in its refusals to Padgett, but those concerns are null, according to Bristow.
“[Padgett] has never been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a violent crime, and Plaintiff does not advocate criminal conduct,” the lawsuit said. It reads the same for Spencer, who also has never been arrested.
Bristow said any violence that stems from a speaking event for Spencer comes from far-left counter protesters he defined as “antifa,” an abbreviation for antifascist. According to the complaint filed, the counter-protesters “resort to violence as a matter of practice to try to oppress people of a right-of-center political persuasion.”
On Aug. 12 a white nationalist rally Spencer helped assemble, called “Unite the Right,” resulted in the death of a counter-protester, Heather Heyer. At his University of Florida event, three of his supporters were charged with attempted homicide after a gunshot was fired into a small crowd. No one was injured.
It’s a waiting game from now until the university sends its response, but two questions need to be answered to determine the legality of Ohio State’s denial, Cooke said. The first being “is the speech itself protected,” and second being “is the [university’s] reaction to the potential for violence reasonable,” she said.
Spencer and Bristow did not respond to repeated requests for comment made by The Lantern. Ohio State is not commenting beyond the letter it released to Padgett Friday.