Auburn University has agreed to pay nearly $30,000 settlement after it briefly attempted to block white supremacist Richard Spencer from speaking on campus.
The controversy began in April, when a Georgia man named Cameron Padgett paid $700 to rent a campus venue so he could host a speech by Spencer at the Alabama school, which is the alma mater of Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Auburn administrators initially said: “We strongly deplore his views, which run counter to those of this institution. While his event isn’t affiliated with the university, Auburn supports the constitutional right to free speech.”
But days later, after conferring with local law enforcement, Auburn administrators announced they had decided to cancel the event, saying they were concerned about the security risk and “civil unrest” after speaking with law enforcement.
Padgett sued, claiming the university had violated his First Amendment rights. And a Montgomery federal judge sided with Padgett, ordering Auburn to allow the planned speech by Spencer to take place on April 18.
More than 400 people attended, with some attending specifically to oppose Spencer; several initially shouted and challenged Spencer’s arguments, then trickled out as his speech dragged on nearly 2 hours, CNN reported.
Outside, protestors and Spencer’s supporters clashed, and police arrested three people for disorderly conduct. Demonstrators also chased several of Spencer’s supporters off campus after the speech.
On Friday, a federal judge quietly approved a $29,000 settlement, which would allow Auburn to end the suit and “avoid more costly litigation costs.” The money will cover Padgett’s legal expenses.