Officials say about 500 police are on and around the campus of the University of Florida as the school prepares for today’s speech from white supremacist Richard Spencer.
Spencer and others particiated in the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA in August.
The public university says it could do nothing to stop the supremacist group from renting the Phillips Center for the event. The school previously denied their request, but was threatened with legal action.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County ahead of the speech, citing imminent threat of danger for placing the executive order.
The feeling on campus has been described by students as everything from “weird” to “scary” with many parents pleading with their college students to stay inside.
The university’s president has issued a statement denouncing the event and its cause and asking students to avoid the event and stay safe.
A banner stretching across Hull Road and Museum Drive, the main roads into the area, shows an extensive list of banned items, including masks, weapons, torches, and athletic equipment that could be used as a weapon.
At time of publishing, approximately 15 protesters had begun holding up signs along sidewalks leading to the speech building.
T-shirts supporting both sides of the cause were reportedly for sale on or near the campus of UF with many students taking to twitter to post photos and updates of the goings on.
The cost of the added security is estimated in the $600,000 range. There is no information about where the money is coming from.
We will continue to update this ongoing situation.
Here is our previous story about the event:
Governor Rick Scott Declares State of Emergency Ahead of White Supremacist Speech at UF
White nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give a speech at the University of Florida on Thursday. Governor Rick Scott is using the recent violence associated with the group Spencer represents to issue a state of emergency for Alachua County in preparation for the event.
Gov. Scott’s executive order allows for local law-enforcement authorities to join with state and other agencies to provide security for the engagement. The university has also beefed-up security and says it expects to spend around $500,000 to help foster a safer environment for the program and for the area.
Richard Spencer spoke at the deadly violent August rally in Charlottesville, VA.
Originally, the university rejected Spencer’s request to allow him and his National Policy Institute, a white nationalist organization, to speak on the campus in September.
When the group threatened to sue the school, officials decided to accommodate Spencer on an alternate date.
Alachua County Sheriff, Sadie Darnell, who asked for Scott’s aid, said that they are expecting both supporters of the group as well as protesters. She is hoping the speech will go along without issue, but is making certain that officials are prepared for whatever may occur.
University of Florida President Kent Fuchs has asked students to avoid the campus event. He stated in an email that Spencer and his group seek only “to provoke a reaction.”
Governor Scott has activated the National Guard to help, if needed, with securing the event. In a statement, he said,
“WE LIVE IN A COUNTRY WHERE EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO VOICE THEIR OPINION, HOWEVER, WE HAVE ZERO TOLERANCE FOR VIOLENCE AND PUBLIC SAFETY IS ALWAYS OUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.”
Spencer is scheduled to speak at UF Phillips Center for Performing Arts at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. The National Policy Institute, which Spencer leads as president, will pay $10,564 to rent the venue and, at the university’s request, is to distribute tickets only on the day of the event, according to Alligator archives.