Booker sues UC for $2 million over security fees for Richard Spencer speech
CINCINNATI (WKRC ) - The man who books events for a white nationalist who was scheduled to speak at the University of Cincinnati filed a federal lawsuit against the school claiming a security fee he is being charged is unconstitutional.
Cameron Padgett is a college student from Georgia who books events at public universities for Richard Spencer. Spencer is a leader in the alt-right movement and his speeches typically draw protests. A woman was killed in Charlottesville when James Fields drove his car into a crowd during a protest. Spencer was one of the leaders of the protest against the removal of Confederate monuments in the city.
Padgett claimed in the federal lawsuit that UC wanted to charge him $10,833 for security costs. Sources with the school estimate security for the event could cost several hundred thousand dollars.
Padgett says a UC webpage about special events indicates criteria for such added costs include, "Is the event/speaker controversial?" and "Have any threats been received". He said such criteria is unconstitutional discrimination.
"The University has policies whereby they look at whether the speech is controversial or whether threats have been made against the speaker to determine what the security fee should be," said attorney Kyle Bristow, who represents Padgett. "And we maintain that is inherently unconstitutional and should not be accepted or tolerated."
According to the complaint, the criteria UC uses to determine the fee allows school officials "to examine the content of the message conveyed, estimate the public response to that content, and judge the number of police necessary to meet that response." Bristow maintains that allows the university to practice content discrimination. He cited several cases in the complaint that he believes support his position.
When Spencer spoke at the University of Florida, the school's president estimated the security would cost between $500,000 and $600,000. In that instance, Spencer's organization agreed to pay more than $10,000 for security. Bristow said that fee was also unconstitutional but a lawsuit wasn't filed against the university.
"I am not a Florida attorney but if I was, I would have sued the University of Florida for imposing that security fee," Bristow said.
The University of Cincinnati issued the following statement in response to the claims made in the lawsuit:
"As a state institution, and as a matter of principle, we adhere to the foundational rights embedded in the First Amendment. This includes protecting the right to free speech. We have stood by this principle all along and will continue to do so. However, Spencer was not invited or sponsored by any member of the university community, and like other non-sponsored speakers, he must pay a fee to rent university space. This includes a security fee. The fee assessed is a mere fraction of the costs we anticipate incurring as a result of this event, but we hold firm in our efforts to respect the principles of free speech while maintaining safety on campus.The university will work with its legal team to review the complaint and respond in court accordingly," Greg Vehr, Vice President of Commmunications.
UC had given Padgett the date of March 14 for Spencer to speak. That date is now on hold because the fee has not been paid.
No date has been set for the lawsuit in federal court. It has been assigned to Judge Susan Dlott.
Alt-Right is described in the lawsuit as similar to identitarian but goes on to criticize affirmative action, non-European immigration to European countries and their former colonies, international free trade agreements, radical feminism, sexual deviancy and the ideology of multiculturalism.