According to TIME, Florida announced a state of emergency in preparation for white nationalist Richard Spencer’s rally in Gainesville earlier this afternoon. Earlier today, as Her Campus UFL covered on Twitter, many students and community members rallied around University of Florida’s campus to protest Spencer hate speech.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency to prevent any unnecessary violence in Gainesville. In addition to the state of emergency, the governor issued hundreds of police officers to the campus, Reuters reports.
The Palm Beach Post also explains that weapons, Firearms, Tasers, knives, sharp objects, lighters, matches, torches, shields, fireworks, backpacks, purses, metal cans, glass bottles, wagons, coolers, pets, propane tanks, bicycles, skateboards, megaphones, laser pointers, umbrellas and tobacco products were banned from the event. Despite the clear prohibited items signs, the Alachua County Sheriff Department said that they made their first arrest because someone had a holstered gun.
While thousands are protesting the event, many people prepared for Spencer’s arrival last night by transforming Gainesville into a positive, anti-prejudice space. The Palm Beach Post explains that many students and residents plasters signs with positive messages on sign posts, windows and event sidewalks. Because sometimes you need some positive words of encouragement when a known Nazi white nationalist is allowed to give a speech at your college.
CNN explains that Spencer previously stated that he believes that “America belongs to white men.” Nevertheless, many protesters are marching down the streets of Gainesville, totting signs and chanting “no Nazis, no KKK, no Fascist USA,” in order to combat Spencer's views.
— Romy Ellenbogen (@romyellenbogen) October 19, 2017
While many attended the event, The Gainesville Sun reports that a local bar, Tall Paul, offered a special to help sway people from attending the event. Although the bar kicked out the event organizer, Cameron Padgett (who then admitted to trying to rip off the bar in a video and also misquoted Fuchs), Tall Paul allows patrons to surrender their ticket to the event in exchange for a free beer. The goal of the offer was that free alcohol might've helped deter people from feeding into Spencer’s hateful rhetoric — even if Kyle Bristow, Spencer's lawyer, claims their beer "tastes like piss." (We're pretty sure he's just being a hater.)
UF President, W. Kent Fuchs, told USA Today that, “Now, for the first time in the history of our nation, very different racist groups are coming together under one person who speaks their language and their words and speaks their views on racism and white supremacy. They’re coming to campus with the intentions of confrontation and with the intention of having all of us repeat their view on the world.”
While freedom of speech doesn’t exclude racists and Nazis (unfortunately), it still might seem a bit baffling that Fuchs would allow someone to host an event on campus, when he is familiar with the speaker’s “intentions of confrontation.”
— Jessica Curbelo (@jesscurbelo) October 19, 2017
However, Fuchs said he has to allow Spencer to speak at the university, because public universities are forced to abide by the First Amendment. Fuchs explained to The Associated Press that this forces, "taxpayers to pay the resulting security cost," which he estimates to be approximately $600,000. While Spencer's National Policy Institute was funding the space for the event, the space only costs $10,564 (which obviously is barely a fraction of the cost that the security and other expenditures cost.)
“I fully understand freedom of speech cannot be burdened legally with the full cost of this, but on the other hand we’re being burdened. So taxpayers are subsidizing hate speech,” Fuchs says to The Associated Press. For Fuchs, the concern is that Floridian taxpayers now have to pay for Spencer to "have a conversation" with UF students that many find damaging and harmful to the diverse student populaiton. Not only is Spencer's speech costing taxpayers, it's subjecting students and Gainesville citizens to potential danger.
While Spencer's visit in Florida continues, we hope that everyone in Gainesville stays safe.