Weeks after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on Florida, the Sunshine State is preparing for another potentially calamitous convergence, but this time in human form.
White Nationalist Richard Spencer is set to speak at the University of Florida in Gainesville today, and both the Governor of Florida Rick Scott (R) and the President of the University of Florida W. Kent Fuchs are on high-alert.
On Monday, October 16th, Governor Scott declared a state of emergency for all of Alachua County, where the university is located. Likewise, the University of Florida will be shelling out about half a million dollars to pay for additional security to keep order on campus.
Furthermore, SwimSwam has learned that Indiana University has sent an officer from IUPD to escort its student-athletes traveling to the University of Florida this weekend for the upcoming triangular between Florida, Texas, and Indiana. The IUPD officer is communicating with local law enforcement “to provide security and ensure we are taking every necessary precaution,” per the Indiana spokesperson. SwimSwam reached out to the University of Texas as well but has not received a response.
Although Fuchs has urged students not to attend Spencer’s speech, and “do not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking,” there is a Facebook event titled “No Nazis at UF — Protest Richard Spencer” scheduled for today at the university’s performing arts center with 3,000 people marked as going and another 7,800 who have expressed interest in attending. According to Facebook, the purpose of the protest is “de-escalation,” but Spencer’s rhetoric and proven ability to energize his supporters and antagonize his detractors make the situation precarious.
Though formerly denied, Spencer was given permission to speak because of the University of Florida’s status as a state university. A statement from the University’s administration reads “UF must allow the free expression of speech. We cannot prohibit groups or individuals from speaking in our public forums except for limited exceptions, which include safety and security.”
Spencer, purportedly an advocate of “free speech,” promotes a false narrative of American history and manifest destiny: That the United States was founded for and ought to return to a European-centric all-white “ethnostate.” Spencer’s organization, the National Policy Institute, says it is “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.” Though Spencer’s opinions curry excitement in the margins of American society, his rallies have consistently gained national attention due to the frequently violent protests and counter-protests that follow the white-hot “activist” from city to city and campus to campus.