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AU student groups prepare for 'peaceful protests' against Richard Spencer

Richard Spencer (Source: Twitter) Richard Spencer (Source: Twitter)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)

After Auburn University canceled his on-campus event that was set for Tuesday night, white nationalist Richard Spencer announced he will still come to the university to speak.

The university cited student safety as its reasoning for canceling the event. However, Spencer posted a video to YouTube accusing the university of violating his right to free speech.

“If Auburn University thinks that I am going to back down because they canceled on me…that I am going to politely go away, then they don’t know me at all,” Spencer said in his video post.

Spencer stated he will be on-campus Tuesday evening to speak to the student body in whatever capacity he can. In response to his statements, some student groups decided to protest.

Groups like the student NAACP chapter, the Black Student Union and other self-proclaimed “grassroots” efforts joined forces to create #AuburnUnites. The coalition was put together in the last couple of days in an effort to create one, unified peaceful protest against Spencer’s presence on campus.

“We realized that a lot of people were doing their own separate protests all across campus and that created a lot of key problems,” #AuburnUnites organizer Troy Ferguson said. “Our main goal is to let everyone know that Richard Spencer and other neo-Nazi groups do not have a voice here.”

Black Student Union President John Blanding said the organization has about 500 active members and is joining forces with a number of other organizations for the event to push the message.

“My immediate response to this is to think of the safety of the students,” Blanding said. “A lot of minority students are fearing for their safety, and that’s a problem.”

He said Spencer has been vocal about bringing his supporters with him, which Blanding said is concerning. He said it’s a “beautiful” thing that the creators and leaders of #AuburnUnites are not African-American. He also said that he has received a positive response and support from people campus-wide, including administration.

“In Student Affairs we work every day to serve Auburn students,” said Dr. Bobby Woodard, vice president for Auburn University Student Affairs. “It’s our job to provide them with the support and resources they need during their time at Auburn.”

Ferguson said he met with campus police officials and was assured that officers will be on campus during the protests and Spencer’s appearance.

The Auburn Assistant Chief of Police William Mathews said this in a written statement:

"The Auburn Police Division has a continuous presence on the campus of Auburn University and will be there on Tuesday as well. As it is close to the end of the semester, we would encourage students to continue attending their classes and preparing for upcoming exams.  Any participation in forums or protests should be conducted in a peaceful and civilized manner to respect those that are working diligently to prepare for their exams. The Auburn Police Division is continuing to work with its State and Federal partners to monitor threat assessments associated with this event and will staff as appropriate to mitigate
or address any issues or safety concerns".

The peaceful protest will begin Tuesday afternoon with free food and music. Ferguson said the group wants it to be fun, campus event. Then, at 6 p.m. students who wish to participate in protest portion of the event will gather and go to Foy Hall, where Spencer was scheduled to speak.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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