Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in preparation for self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida on Oct. 19.
“I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent and hereby declare a state of emergency in Alachua County,” Scott said in an executive order.
The executive order will allow local law enforcement agencies to partner with other state law enforcement agencies if necessary.
Additionally, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be the lead agency for crisis management.
In a statement, Scott said the state of emergency was requested by Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.
“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion,” Scott said. “However, we have zero tolerance for violence, and public safety is always our number one priority.”
According to The News-Press, Spencer thinks there’s no reason his event should not go on, and even believes the state of emergency is taking things too far.
“If someone is coming to speak, I feel like declaring the state of emergency is out of bounds,” Spencer said. “I feel like this may be an excuse to cancel the event, but I simply don’t know.”
founder of the alt-right online blog, will pay about $10,564 to make an appearance at 2:30 p.m. at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on UF’s campus.
According to The Independent Florida Alligator, the university is expecting to spend about $500,000 in security costs.
Spencer’s events have ensued violence in the past, and they often attract counter protestors, like Antifa. According to The News-Press, both Spencer’s followers and Antifa have expressed an intention on using violence.
Spencer is often associated with rebranding white nationalism, and is said to have coined the term “alt-right.”
He has since made several appearances at institutions, and he lead the “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in one fatlitiy and about 19 injuries after a supporter ran his car into a crowd of counter protestors, according toTreasure Coast Palm.
Spencer was originally scheduled to speak at the university on Sept. 12, when UF rejected his application, citing the potential for violence following the Charlottesville, Virginia riots.
In response to the decision, Spencer vowed to pursue legal action, claiming freedom of speech. UF is considered a public university, which grants outside groups and individuals the right to rent space on campus. The university cannot legally deny these organizations from speaking on campus unless it poses a serious security threat.
The university made it clear that Spencer was not barred from making an appearance, and said he could submit another application, which explains his event scheduled in three days.
In light of the event, UF has prepared a Q&A on their website regarding Spencer and the event. The website also offers resources to First Amendment experts on campus and personal statements from the university’s President, W. Kent Fuchs.
“The values of our universities are not shared by Mr. Spencer, the National Policy Institute, or his followers,” Fuchs said. “Our campuses are places where people from all races, origins and religions are welcomed and are treated with love.”
Fuchs asked students to do two things in preparation for the event.
“First, do not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking,” Fuchs said. “I urge everyone to stay away from the Phillips Center on Oct. 19. Second, although I urge you to avoid the Spencer event, I ask that you not let Mr. Spencer’s message of hate and racism go unchallenged.”