The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal center focusing on civil rights litigation and advocacy against white supremacist groups, is calling for students to ignore, not protest, Richard Spencer's visit to campus next week.
"We've talked to some students who are organizing counter-protests or are planning to go and confront him and such," said Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the SPLC. "We highly recommend against that."
Spencer, famous for being punched at an anti-Trump protest in January, plans to speak on Auburn's campus later this month, Spencer has confirmed on his Twitter. He will speak on Tuesday, April 18 at 7 p.m. in the Foy Hall Auditorium.
He launched his college tour in December at Texas A&M, a few months after another controversial commentator, Milo Yiannopoulos, launched his "Dangerous F*ggot Tour" on college campuses. Yiannopoulos, who also avows white supremacist views, spoke at Auburn in October.
"Richard wanted to jump on this bandwagon as well," Brooks said. "He was so enamored by all of the media attention and the protestors that showed up at Texas A&M, that he announced that he was going to launch his own college campus tour."
Spencer is known for coining the term "alt-right" and drew about 275 attendees to an event in Washington, D.C. last year for his National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank. At the event, Spencer led members in Nazi salutes for then-President-elect Donald Trump.
In an interview with Mother Jones, Spencer said college campuses are the best place for the alt-right to prove they can attract supporters in the real world.
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"People in college are at this point in their lives where they are actually open to alternative perspectives, for better and for worse," he said. "I think you do need to get them while they are young. I think rewiring the neurons of someone over 50 is effectively impossible."
Since the launch of his tour, Spencer has held several events at college campuses.
"I'll be talking about Trump and the Syria situation. I'll be talking about the alt-right. I'll be talking about identity," Spencer said in a video announcing the event. "If this event is anything like my other ones, it is going to be wild."
Brooks said the SPLC is encouraging students to avoid the area completely and not give Spencer any attention. Brooks is currently working to book an off-campus location for an alternative event to offset Spencer's.
"This is evidence of the alt-right's concerted effort to recruit college students to white nationalism," Brooks said. "We hope this alternative event will pull everyone away from campus and Richard Spencer that evening because that would be most hurtful to him — not to have anyone show up."
"We can't keep people from attending who are interested in his message," Brooks said. "But people who want to send a message that they disagree with him and what he stands for away, we're encouraging them to come off campus and not give him any attention at all."
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