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Richard Spencer's campus tour ends with a whimper as last lawsuit is quietly settled

​Richard Spencer’s ill-received and much ballyhooed campus speaking tour is ending with a whimper.

Richard Spencer’s ill-received and much ballyhooed campus speaking tour is ending with a whimper.

The University of Cincinnati and Spencer’s booking agent and legal advocate, Cameron Padgett, filed a one-page stipulation of dismissal in federal court Wednesday.

The dismissal comes five weeks after Spencer, the front man for the racist "alt-right" movement, announced a “course correction” and a suspension of his college speaking tour after a sparsely attended outing at Michigan State University on March 5.

But, after many legal efforts, a few speeches and many, many protesters, Spencer’s efforts to reach the youth of the country on campus is coming to an end, at least for now.

A national tour

Spencer commenced an effort in 2016 to address audiences on college campuses across the country and he succeeded in holding events at Texas A&M, Auburn University, the University of Florida and Michigan State.

Padgett also sued Ohio State, Penn State and the University of Cincinnati seeking to force those schools to host Spencer and cover the cost of security.

The speeches all followed a similar pattern: Someone who wasn’t a student, in most cases Padgett, would rent or try to reserve a room on campus for Spencer to speak. If the university objected, Spencer’s booking agent would sue to force the speech and make the school pay for security.

Once the speeches were scheduled, they drew protests and condemnation from university administrators. But, Spencer pressed on, pitching a white nationalist theme to audiences.

"Race is the foundation of identity," Spencer said at Texas A&M. "The word racist is a fake word. No one identifies with the word racist."

Outside Foy Hall at Auburn University in Alabama, protesters chanted and carried signs opposing Spencer. University administrators put up a legal fight to try to keep Spencer off campus, but a lawsuit backed by well-heeled racist attorney Sam G. Dickson forced Auburn to allow Spencer to speak.

The gatherings turned violent when Spencer spoke at the University of Florida in Gainesville in October.

Two people – 29-year-old Colton Fears and 29-year-old Tyler Tenbrink – are awaiting trial on a charge of attempted murder. Police say Tenbrink fired a shot at protestors after Spencer’s speech.

As Spencer pushed his tour into 2018, universities started setting up counter-programming and scheduling the speeches during spring break, when few students would be on campus.

The nadir for Spencer came at Michigan State on March 5.

First, his backers had trouble giving away tickets to the event, then protesters and Spencer’s backers from the Traditionalist Worker Party and other neo-Nazi groups clashed outside the agricultural arena where Spencer was speaking.

It’s a sure bet there were no such fights when the arena hosted a rabbit show in the weeks before Spencer’s arrival.

And, ultimately, the speech drew more police outside than supporters inside to hear Spencer speak.

A relief and an end, for now

The dismissal of the University of Cincinnati lawsuit comes just days after a federal judge ordered the lawsuit against Penn State tossed out. Padgett did not pursue the litigation after filing it on October 2017. And, after Michigan State, Padgett dropped his efforts to land Spencer a speaking engagement at Ohio State.

Padgett and Spencer threatened to sue other schools, including the University of Michigan and Kent State University, but never followed through on the threats.

The terms of the settlement between Padgett and the University of Cincinnati were not immediately available, but the notice filed in court states that each side of the suit will pay their own costs.

Now with the efforts at Cincinnati called off, university administrators on the southern Ohio campus are breathing easier.

University President Neville Pinto reminded the public in a statement that "no one at UC invited Spencer to come to our campus."

"While this has been a trying time for our community and one that tested our commitment to free speech, it has also prompted difficult conversations about how freedom of expression intertwines with our commitment to equity and inclusion," Pinto said.

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