EAST LANSING (WWJ) – Ahead of a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer, hundreds of people gathered for a rowdy protest at Michigan State University.
Some in armored vehicles, Michigan State Police in riot gear swarmed the scene Monday, on the outskirts of the East Lansing campus.
WWJ’s Jon Hewett reports protesters tried to block a roadway leading to the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education, where Spencer was scheduled to appear for a ticketed event.
As people in the crowd chanted “Nazis go home!” several people were arrested.
“Police in their riot gear came and cleared the road and they now hold that road,” Hewett reported. “It has calmed down over the past few minutes, but their were fists flying and pushing and shoving going on in the middle of this.”
Bottles and rocks were thrown, according to witnesses, and bloodied faces were captured in photos. A few Spencer supporters turned around instead of trying to get in, according to reports.
Police intervened, Hewett said, and by 5 p.m. about a dozen people had been taken away in handcuffs. Some officers were carrying tear gas, although it did not appear that any was deployed.
Some demonstrators took a more peaceful approach, including Al, who opted not to give his last name. An Okemos resident and MSU graduate, he said he just wants to voice his concerns about Spencer’s appearance.
“The ideas that they espouse: genocide, white supremacy, fascism, are anti-American and dangerous to our people, to our nation, to Americans,” he said. “I don’t want to shut the event down, but I want people attending the event and Richard Spencer to know that there are people who are willing to fight for our country and what our country stands for — which is equality, diversity and democracy.”
Having initially denied Spencer’s petition to appear citing safety concerns, MSU later agreed to allow the speech on the first day of spring break, while many students would be away.
Around 50 people made it inside the pavilion to hear Spencer’s speech, Hewett reported. Spencer told the crowd that he considered the event a success because he got to share his ideas, but did regret that there was violence.
“We need to raise consciousness among white people,” Spencer said. “We need to understand of ourselves as actually a global people. We are being attacked on that level. We are being attacked on the level of race, and therefore, we have to confront this on the level of race.”
Spencer praised President Donald Trump for his proposals to end “chain migration” which allows Green card holders to bring over their spouses and minor children. And after becoming citizens, they can apply to bring over parents, married children and adult siblings.
One protester, Patrick from Port Huron, understood that the Spencer supporters were just trying to exercise their right to free speech, but the protesters were doing the same.
“I understand that they’re advocating for their free speech, but I’m advocating for my free speech against their views,” Patrick said. “So it’s a contest of ideas, but it’s also important to speak out against things that you disagree with.”