World

Protesters clash ahead of white nationalist's speech in Michigan

A least a dozen people were arrested on Monday after supporters of Richard Spencer clashed with protesters outside a Michigan college campus where the white nationalist was scheduled to speak.

Fist fights break out ahead of appearance by Richard Spencer

A man salutes and yells 'white power' after being stopped from entering the Richard Spencer speaking event by a group of protesters on Monday, outside the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education in East Lansing, Mich. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP)

More than a dozen people were reportedly arrested on Monday after supporters of white nationalist Richard Spencer clashed with protesters outside a Michigan college campus where he was scheduled to speak.

Among those arrested were Gregory Conte, director of operations for Spencer's organization, the National Policy Institute, according to Evan McLaren, the group's executive director.

Fist fights broke out on a road leading to Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., as about 40 backers of Spencer walked up a road leading to the campus, where roughly 500 demonstrators had gathered, surrounding an armoured police vehicle.

Police in riot gear quickly stepped in to break up the conflict, handcuffing six or seven people, then forming a skirmish line along the roadside to prevent further clashes.

But sporadic fights continued to erupt outside the campus as officers escorted attendees into the building in small groups. Media representatives for the university could not immediately be reached for comment.

"These people are scum. We chased them away. This is our free speech being exercised," said David Sherman, 25, who drove to the campus from Indianapolis to protest Spencer's event.

People protest Spencer's visit to Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., on Monday. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

Video of clashes and arrests were posted on Twitter by journalist Colin Beresford, an editor at The Michigan Daily, a campus newspaper at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

A reporter with the Detroit Free Press, citing an unspecified police source, said "more than a dozen but less than two dozen" people had been arrested.

But a spokesperson for the Michigan State Police declined to sat how many people had been detained or arrested, when speaking to the Reuters wire service. 

'Radical white separatist'

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors U.S. hate groups, describes Spencer as a "radical white separatist whose goal is the establishment of a white ethno-state in North America."

An outspoken supporter of Trump during the 2016 campaign, Spencer rose from relative obscurity after widely circulated videos showed some Trump supporters giving Nazi-style salutes to Spencer during a gathering in Washington to celebrate the Republican candidate's win.

Trump condemned the meeting.

In October, protests broke out as Spencer gave a speech at the University of Florida in Gainsville. Two months earlier, a 20-year-old man said by law enforcement to harbour Nazi sympathies drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters after white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., killing a 32-year-old woman.

Spencer speaks at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., in October 2017. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors U.S. hate groups, describes Spencer as a 'radical white separatist.' (Chris O'Meara/Associated Press)

With files from CBC News