White supremacist Richard Spencer will speak at the University of Florida Thursday — and fearing a repeat of the violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, state officials aren’t taking any chances.
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency in Alachua County, where the university’s campus is located. His executive order will allow increased coordination between state and local law enforcement agencies to secure the event and any protests that take place outside.
“Prior speaking engagements involving Mr. Spencer at universities in Alabama, California, Texas, and Virginia have sparked protests and counter-protests resulting in episodes of violence, civil unrest, and multiple arrests,” Scott’s order states. “I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent and hereby declare a state of emergency for Alachua County.”
The University of Florida says it anticipates spending $500,000 on security.
Scott said that authorities were not aware of any specific security threat, rather, his emergency declaration was a precautionary measure.
Fearing, perhaps, that the emergency declaration is being used as a pretext which would enable the university to cancel the event, Spencer has already spun Scott’s action into a potential attack on his free speech rights.
The event is the first time that Spencer has secured permission to speak on a college campus since Charlottesville, which kicked off on Aug. 11 with a torchlit procession at the University of Virginia.
His impending appearance at the University of Florida has already sparked protests led by “No Nazis at UF,” which is a coalition of student activist groups.
Meanwhile, a local brewery’s efforts to screw over Spencer have been thwarted. The brewery was offering students free beer if they secured and handed over event tickets, with the goal of collecting as many tickets as possible so that the venue would be as empty as possible.
However, a spokesperson from the University of Florida told the Miami Herald that Spencer and his cohorts had decided to control ticket distribution themselves. Evan McLaren, executive director of Spencer’s “National Policy Institute” — a white supremacist think-tank — confirmed this to VICE News. “We’re not seeking to only hand out tickets to our supporters,” said McLaren. “We like event when people are there to challenge, people who are curious, people who are there for constructive reasons.”