On Monday, March 5, Richard Spencer will be speaking on the MSU campus at the livestock pavilion from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Spencer rejects the title of white supremacist for himself but many consider him to be just that. A controversial figure, he has allegedly cited Nazi propaganda during some of his speeches. He claims to be the originator of the term “alt-right” and is reported to have called for the peaceful ethnic cleansing of Europe. Many know Spencer as a principle speaker at the “Unite the Right” event last year in Charlottesville, Virginia. That event devolved into violence resulting in one death, a number of injuries, and property damage. Spencer has tried to hold speaking engagements at other public institutions with limited success.
On January 31, members of the East Lansing Interfaith Clergy Association met with the MSU police department to discuss possible responses to Spencer’s visit. Law enforcement officials are urging people not to attend. The University granted Spencer 300 tickets. Only ticket holders will be admitted to the event. Protesters are expected outside the event. Fewer people present will make it easier for police to maintain safety. The event has been scheduled for spring break so that fewer students will be on campus. Roads around the area will be closed.
Some people will attend the event to protest against Spencer and his views. Some will do so as a peaceful witness. Others may take a confrontational approach. Some are organizing to “resist” Spencer, others to “stop” Spencer. Legally, Richard Spencer has a first amendment right to speak to his views publicly. While I commend those who disagree with him, I also acknowledge his Constitutional right to free speech. I hope that those who oppose Spencer do so thoughtfully and non-violently for their own sakes, for the sake of our community, the University, and with respect for the difficult position that law enforcement personnel will be in on March 5.
One way to resist Richard Spencer is to ignore him while witnessing to something better. On Saturday, March 3, from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. at our church, the movie “13th” will be shown. This is about the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and racism in our country. There will be child care, dinner and a time for discussion. On Monday, while the Spencer event is happening, the East Lansing Interfaith Clergy Association, along with a number of student and civic groups, will be celebrating diversity at All Saints Episcopal Church, 200 Abbot Road, in East Lansing. There will be food, entertainment and opportunity to celebrate racial and cultural diversity in our community. I hope that you will choose a peaceful and positive way to express any opposition you might have to Richard Spencer’s visit.