National

Posted: October 16, 2017

University of Florida to host white supremacist event, expects $500,000 in security costs

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What You Need To Know: Richard B. Spencer

By Paige Fry , Palm Beach Post

GAINESVILLE, Fla. —

The University of Florida plans on spending $500,000 to “enhance security on campus” and in Gainesville, Florida, for white nationalist Richard Spencer’s speaking event Thursday.

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The money will include costs not only for the University of Florida Police Department, but also for the Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol and other agencies providing first responders, the university said.

Spencer was to be a featured speaker at the August rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, at which one person died, but authorities stopped the event from taking place after protests and counterprotests turned violent.

The university will recoup $10,564 from Spencer’s National Police Institute for the two-hour rental of the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. However, it cannot pass along the balance of these costs -- enough to pay the annual tuitions of about 75 undergraduate students, according to university estimates -- to him under a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court free-speech ruling.

UF plans to remain open during the event, but access to campus buildings will be tightly restricted, and its faculty has been asked to be understanding of students who are fearful to be on campus that day.

University president Kent Fuchs has condemned Spencer’s message multiple times and has urged faculty and students not to attend the event, which is scheduled to run from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

“UF has been clear and consistent in its denunciation of all hate speech and racism, and in particular the racist speech and white nationalist values of Mr. Spencer,” Fuchs wrote Oct. 10. “I personally find the doctrine of white supremacy abhorrent and denounce all forms of racism and hate.”

Following the white nationalist Charlottesville rally in August, Spencer and the National Policy Institute requested to rent a facility at UF on Sept. 12. The university originally denied the request citing violence from Charlottesville and threats toward UF. After Spencer’s group spoke of suing under free speech laws, the university switched positions to allow Spencer to rent the space, which often used by visiting speakers. He was not invited or sponsored by UF or any of its organizations.

In the days leading up the event, UF organizations and Gainesville businesses have denounced Spencer’s message.

UF Hillel, a nonprofit organization for Jewish students, will provide a safe space guarded by security on Thursday and hold a “Solidarity Shabbat” on Friday with other UF organizations “to show unity and strength.”

Alligator Brewing Co., located in Tall Paul’s Brew House just east of campus in downtown Gainesville, announced on Oct. 12 that everyone 21 and older who brought in two tickets for Spencer’s event would receive a free draft beer. However, plans for free beer fell through when NPI decided to distribute its own tickets instead of using the Phillips Center’s box office, the university said. NPI posted on its Facebook page that it will post updates of ticket information on the page and Spencer’s Twitter account.

A Facebook group called “No Nazis at UF” created a Facebook event announcement to protest Spencer, which has more than 460 people marked as going to the event and more than 870 marked as interested in attending.

“We must stand together in the fight against white supremacy and fascism, and defend the most marginalized of our communities,” the group wrote.

The group started an online petition on change.org to UF administration showing its displeasure with the university allowing Spencer to speak. It had recorded more than 3,300 signatures as of Monday morning.

On Monday, No Nazis at UF’s organizers held a news conference on campus with protest signs in tow. They marched to Fuchs’ office but were denied access.

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