Richard Spencer, Police and Protesters Descend on Univ. of Florida

Eric Levenson, CNN, October 19, 2017

The University of Florida in Gainesville is bracing for a day of protests Thursday when white supremacist Richard Spencer arrives on campus to deliver a speech on his racist views.

The event, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, will be Spencer’s first planned visit to a college campus since he and others participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.

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On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County, where the university is located, to enable law enforcement agencies to work together more efficiently. He also made a provision for the National Guard to be activated if necessary.

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The event puts the university in the middle of an ongoing debate about what constitutes protected speech and the extent of its limits. {snip}

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University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs denounced Spencer’s white supremacist platform as abhorrent in a letter to students but said the school could not stop him from renting the Phillips Center for the event.

Fuchs told CNN there will be more police on campus Thursday than at any time in the university’s history.

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With scores of police in position, protesters began arriving outside the Phillips Center on Thursday.

Craig Carlisle, from Gainesville, held up a sign saying “No Trump Nazis.” He said he had a message for Spencer: “Don’t be racist.”

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In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Spencer said he was flattered by the state of emergency declaration, which he said put him on par with “hurricanes and invading armies and zombie apocalypses.”

Still, he said he thought the declaration was overkill.

“The fact is, if the police simply do their job, my speech and the whole event will go off wonderfully,” Spencer said.

Previous speeches from Spencer on college campuses have sparked protests, including at Texas A&M in December and Alabama’s Auburn University in April. He also led a group of supporters carrying torches in May in Charlottesville in a display that critics said evoked images of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Outside the speech venue, law enforcement sectioned off one area for pro-Spencer protesters and another area for anti-Spencer protesters, each about 50 yards apart. The university also banned an extensive list of items, including torches, masks, weapons and athletic equipment that could be used as a weapon.

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Fuchs, the university president, advised students to shun Spencer and to speak against his “message of hate and racism.”

“UF has been clear and consistent in its denunciation of all hate speech and racism, and in particular the racist speech and white nationalist values of Mr. Spencer,” Fuchs said. “I personally find the doctrine of white supremacy abhorrent and denounce all forms of racism and hate.”

By law, the school must pay for the additional costs of security. Given the heightened concerns, the school is providing extra security that exceeds $600,000, Fuchs said.

That cost will essentially be passed on to taxpayers, which Fuchs said was unfair.

“I really don’t believe that’s fair that the taxpayer is now subsidizing through these kind of events the security and having to subsidize his hate speech,” he said.

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