Image Richard Spencer, white nationalists, spark protest at University of Florida
Richard Spencer, white nationalists, spark protest at University of Florida [Photo: AP]

Richard Spencer, white nationalists, spark protest at University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida [LC]

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside a lecture hall at the University of Florida today in opposition to a speech by Richard Spencer, a white nationalist. The University of Florida, a public institution, is legally compelled to not block anyone from speaking, even if the speaker will be practicing hate speech. Two months ago, Spencer and hundreds of white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the Unite the Right rally, which descended into widespread violence.

On Monday, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County, which contains the university.

Inside the lecture hall, Spencer gave his speech to a hostile crowd.

At the event Spencer declared, “I’m not going home, I’ll stand here all day if I have to,” calling the protesters a mob of “shrieking and grunting morons”.

A blockade of riot police stood by as hundreds of protesters marched in opposition to Spencer’s appearance. Chants of “Go home, Spencer!” “Nazis are not welcome here!” and “Black lives matter!” could be heard from the crowd. Some of Spencer’s supporters chanted back, “You will not replace us!” Reportedly, helicopters and drones circled overhead, while snipers stood atop buildings surrounding the forum.

Chad Chavira, one of the organizers of a “No Nazis at UF” protest said, “Our stance from the beginning is that Richard Spencer should not have a platform here and that the university should not have provided him with one.”

“By hosting Spencer, not only does it bring white nationalists into the community,” he said, “but it also emboldens the ones who are already here and gives [Spencer] the opportunity to recruit those who are on the fringe of his movement.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announcing a proposal to spend $1 million on security at Jewish schools on Wednesday. (Photo by the Governor’s Office)

“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion,” Governor Scott said in a statement. “However, we have zero tolerance for violence, and public safety is always our number one priority.”

On an Alt-Right Politics podcast, Spencer had announced that he would go through with the event, even if the university cancelled it. “If there is some kind of totally unwise decision on behalf of the university to suppress our rights,” he said, “we will use the university as a public space, and we will certainly exercise our right to free speech.”

Richard Spencer (Reuters Photo)

In a released statement prior to the speech, the University of Florida expected security to cost $500,000 and involve several law enforcement agencies, including the university’s police department, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and the Gainesville Police Department. “Although UF leadership has denounced Spencer’s white supremacist rhetoric, the university, as a state entity, must allow the free expression of all viewpoints,” the statement read. Spencer’s National Policy Institute was asked to pay $10,564 in renting the venue and contribute to security costs.

UF President W. Kent Fuchs tweeted, “For the record, I don’t stand behind racist Richard Spencer. I stand with those who reject and condemn Spencer’s vile and despicable message.”

At a speech in New York today, former President George W. Bush declared,

“Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”

UPDATE: October 20, 2017 [10:44 a.m. ET]

[Title Photo by AP]

LIMA CHARLIE NEWS, with Diego Lynch

Lima Charlie provides global news, insight & analysis by military veterans and service members Worldwide.

For up-to-date news, please follow us on twitter at @LimaCharlieNews