Richard Spencer's Florida visit leads to state of emergency declaration

"We have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority," says Gov. Rick Scott

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 17, 2017 9:58AM (EDT)

Richard Spencer (AP/David J. Phillip)
Richard Spencer (AP/David J. Phillip)

In anticipation of an upcoming speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida-Gainesville, Gov. Rick Scott is declaring a state of emergency.

"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," Scott said in a statement.

He added, "I have been in constant contact with Sheriff Darnell who has requested this executive order to ensure that county and local law enforcement have every needed resource. This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe."

As Scott's statement pointed out, previous Spencer speeches have led to "protests and counter-protests resulting in episodes of violence, civil unrest and multiple arrests."

Counter-protests have already started forming in anticipation of Spencer's Thursday speech, according to ABC News. This included a gathering of 100 protesters at the Plaza of the Americas on Monday morning to express discontent with the decision by the college president, Dr. W. Kent Fuchs, to allow Spencer to speak there.

"The free speech of this Nazi sympathizer and the people who are coming with him to wreak havoc on our little town are no more important than our rights of the citizens of this town," one woman at the event told the network.

Spencer strenuously disagreed with the notion that he was there to spread persecution or stir up violence.

"There's this lie, like I'm coming to bully black people or something. I have zero interest in that. My interest in speaking at the University of Florida and all over the country is to raise consciousness among whites, among white people," Spencer told the network.

He added, "We have to deal with Antifa and other thug elements that want to suppress free speech."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Florida Racism Richard Spencer Rick Scott White Nationalism White Supremacists