Michigan State refuses to rent space to Richard Spencer's group

In this Dec. 6, 2016 file photo, Richard Spencer, who leads a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism, speaks at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas. 

AP

DETROIT -- Michigan State University has denied a request to rent space to a group headed by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

The university said in a statement Thursday that the decision was made "due to significant concerns about public safety." It cites last weekend's "tragic violence" in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Michigan State officials say they support "freedom of expression" but their "first obligation" is to safety and security on campus. 

MSU said Wednesday it would "closely" review the request by group, adding that the school takes seriously its obligations to accommodate a broad range of speech, CBS Detroit reports.   

Spencer calls the decision "obvious censorship." He says "there's a clear legal precedent" for him to speak. 

Spencer spoke at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in May.

"We will not be replaced from this park," Spencer told the crowd. "We will not be replaced from this world. Whites have a future. We have a future of power, of beauty, of expression."

The University of Florida also denied a request by Spencer's National Policy Institute to rent space for a September event. 

Spencer, an outspoken supporter of President Trump, hosted a postelection conference in the nation's capital last November that ended with audience members mimicking Nazi salutes after Spencer shouted, "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!" Spencer popularized the phrase "alt-right," and has advocated for an "ethno-state" that would be a "safe space" for white people.