The University of Florida was the scene of the first official college campus stop for Richard Spencer since the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA. The white supremacist group rented the Phillips Center at the public university after threatening legal action when the school rejected their first attempts to hold an event.
The high profile leader, Spencer, and his team were met by thousands of protesters who lined sidewalks and flooded streets to peacefully demonstrate their opposition to the group’s message.
The campus was swarming with reportedly $600,000 worth of security; historically more than has ever been present on the UF campus. The massive show of readiness was prompted by Gov. Rick Scott’s declaration of a state of emergency for Aluchua County. Joint law enforcement agencies along with the governor felt the possibility of eminent danger warranted the action.
The university’s president, W. Kent Fuchs, denounced the event and asked that students stay away. For the most part, it seemed that students heeded his warning with many opting to take the day off, stay inside, or remain off campus.
The school banned items that could potentially be used as weapons. Things such as masks, firearms, and some sports equipment were also prohibited. 5 minor injuries were reported and one hired security agent was allegedly detained for bringing a firearm.
Protesters – who greatly outnumbered demonstrators – began gathering ahead of the 2:30 p.m. speech, holding signs and chanting phrases such as, “Haters go home.”
The auditorium was left with plenty of seats during Spencer’s speech. Many attendees were actually protesters who chose to stand, fist raised, and shout anti-hate slogans over Spencer’s message.
At one point, the visibly irritated Spencer stated that he would stay in the auditorium all day until his speech could continue. But ultimately, the event moved on and moved off of the UF campus and out of Gainesville.