UNIVERSITY PARK — A Georgia State University student has filed a lawsuit hoping to force Penn State University to lease him space so that white nationalist speaker Richard Spencer can speak at the campus, according to court filings.
In a complaint filed at U.S. Middle District Court on Thursday, Cameron Padgett accuses Penn State of unconstitutional content discrimination for refusing his request to rent a conference room or lecture hall for an appearance by Spencer.
According to the complaint, Padgett identifies himself as a follower of identitarian philosophy, which preaches opposition to multiculturalism and advocates for separate regions and nations that are culturally and ethnically homogenous within their own borders.
Padgett, a 29-year-old senior at Georgia State, says in the suit that he does not consider himself alt-right, but supports Spencer and is an organizer of Spencer’s collegiate speaking tour.
The university refused Padgett’s request in July.
The suit was filed against Penn State president Eric J. Barron and the university’s Board of Trustees.
According to the lawsuit, Barron released a statement saying Spencer was not welcome on Penn State’s campus, citing the violence in Charlottesville, Va. during a “Unite the Right” protest rally.
In the statement, Barron said, “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. There is no place for hatred, bigotry or racism in our society and on our campuses.”
Barron said in his statement that the decision to bar Spencer from appearing on campus was due to safety concerns.
“It is the likelihood of disruption and violence, not the content, however odious, that drives our decision,” Barron said.
The lawsuit argues that Penn State’s refusal to lease him space is unconstitutional. Padgett says there is no reason to believe Spencer or his supporters will engage in or advocate criminal misconduct.
The lawsuit blames Antifa, which Padgett calls ” an unincorporated and international collective of communists and anarchists who resort to violence as a matter of practice to try to oppress people of a right-of-center political persuasion” in the lawsuit, for previous outbreaks of violence aimed at Spencer and his supporters.
Padgett’s suit points to a similar filing in Alabama, where a federal judge granted him a preliminary injunction that allowed Spencer to speak at Auburn University. The judge ordered police to take necessary precautions to provide security for Spencer, the audience and peaceful protesters.
Spencer spoke without incident, the lawsuit states.
Padgett’s lawsuit against Penn State seeks a similar injunction allowing him to bring Spencer to the campus without posting bond or being required to pay for police protection when Spencer speaks. He also is aksing for an award of punitive damages and a monetary judgement in excess of $75,000 due to Penn State’s disregard of his free speech rights.