Florida Gov. Declares State of Emergency in Advance of Alt-right Visit

by | October 17, 2017

In advance of Thursday's appearance by alt-right leader Richard Spencer on the University of Florida campus, Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for Alachua County.

The declaration is needed to help local law enforcement and state agencies keep the peace, after prior Spencer speaking engagements in Alabama, California, Texas and Virginia have "sparked protests and counter-protests resulting in episodes of violence, civil unrest and multiple arrests," reads the governor's order, issued Monday.

The order puts the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state's Diversion of Emergency Management in charge.

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell made the request to the governor to assist with local law enforcement efforts.

In a prepared statement, the governor was quoted: "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. 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."

Organizers of the "no Nazi" group gathered on the UF campus Monday morning to ask UF President Kent Fuchs to not allow Spencer's group to speak at the Phillips Center Thursday. Students have gathered petition signatures asking for the group be denied a forum and area faith leaders are scheduled to meet early Monday evening to suggest that people not attend or protest the speech, but instead to find other ways to make their feelings known -- from a safe distance.

UF and city officials have asked people to stay away from the protest area in hopes that the event won't make headlines.

Spencer's organization, the National Policy Institute, has focused efforts on college campuses, where he hopes to expand his base of supporters.

The 39-year-old says he isn't a racist, but doesn't believe in equality and wants to expand white privilege to ensure that future generations grow up in a majority white society.

Spencer's group has tried to take advantage of public universities that face a high legal hurdle in denying him, and where he is guaranteed controversy that gets him in front of TV cameras and onto the front pages of newspapers. He hopes next to speak at Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, and has threatened to sue if not permitted.

UF officials have said they expect to shoulder more than $500,000 in security costs that, based a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, can't be billed to the groups that create the security need.

(c)2017 The Gainesville Sun