White Nationalist Richard Spencer spoke in Gainesville at the University of Florida Thursday afternoon, or attempted to.
- White Nationalist Richard Spencer speaking at UF Thursday
- Event in the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
- Deputies from Pinellas and Pasco also in Gainesville today
- UF: Q & A for Spencer event
The head of the National Policy Institute took the stage to boos and had difficulty speaking throughout his event.
From the beginning, almost all people in the audience started to yell out, some in agreement, but a clear majority against, shouting things like "Get off the stage!" "Say it loud, say it clear, Nazis are not welcome here!" and "Black Lives Matter!"
“I felt like it was important to show up, and show that, you know, we not afraid, we are here, you have come into our home to spread hate, and we aren’t going to stand for it,” said students Amol Jethwani and Kristen Jackson.
“I am here because I have supported Richard Spencer for over 5 years now," said former UF student Martin Poirier. "He agrees with me more than he disagrees with me. We are in mutual communion with the alt-right, we disagree on a few minor points, but generally speaking that Richard is an allies, and he is a friend.”
Those yells built -- until many people in the crowd just stood up, and continued to chant for the remainder of the speech.
Before the talk took place, Spencer told reporters that his college tour had been more difficult than he'd expected.
“I thought this college tour was going to be easy, that we would call to the masses, and I would come and speak to students," Spencer said. "The fact is it has been difficult, the fact is there have been road blocks at every place along the way.”
But we did speak to at least one person who came to support Spencer's right to free speech.
“What I know about him, I don’t really agree with anything that he has to say," said Dion Weaver. "But having said that, I am a firm believer in freedom of speech.”
Orlando man arrested before the event
Ahead of the speech, an Orlando man was arrested for allegedly carrying a firearm on the campus, authorities said.
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office tweeted, "Arrested Man ID as Sean Brijmohan 28 YOA from Orlando FL. Arrested under FS790.115(2)(c)1 Carrying Firearm on School Property."
According to news sources, Brijmohan said he has all the necessary permits and was hired by Fox News for armed security for station WFOX in Jacksonville. He said he works for SAI Investigations.
Arrested Man ID as Sean Brijmohan 28 YOA from Orlando FL. Arrested under FS790.115(2)(c)1 Carrying Firearm on School Property. pic.twitter.com/uY5B2EXtCU— Alachua Co. Sheriff (@AlachuaSheriff) October 19, 2017
The protest in the streets
Hundreds came out for the "No Nazis at UF rally."
Some marched carrying signs that read "Gators, Not Haters." Many said the purpose was to show that University of Florida was an inclusive community.
"No Nazis at UF" march pic.twitter.com/jUWeGP0eZZ— holly gregory (@hollygregory33) October 19, 2017
"It makes me feel good to finally all come together for one common cause," said student Kimberly Brown. "Everyone wants inclusivity. Everyone wants to feel like they are loved and love is universal. They have the same exact cause that I have, to make sure that hate is wiped out in that love is the number one goal."
"Personally, I think to not come out at all and not give him the attention would've been the best message," said student Peter Doyle. "But since people are here, I think it's wonderful this many people protesting a message of hate that [Spencer] is trying to bring."
Gator Nation against Richard Spencer pic.twitter.com/64sJ5R6ox9— holly gregory (@hollygregory33) October 19, 2017
There were some skirmishes, however, as supporters and protesters confronted each other.
A man wearing a white shirt with Swastikas drawn on it was punched and chased out of the area. Some others were surrounded by crowds who chanted and pushed them until they were chased behind police lines.
With the tense atmosphere expected, Gov. Rick Scott earlier this week declared a state of emergency to allow for additional law enforcement.
Some 500 law enforcement officers kept a close eye out on the ground and on top of buildings. Law enforcement from throughout the state was on hand, including deputies from the sheriff's offices in Pinellas and Pasco counties. Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement sent officers from across the state as well.
A Spencer-led rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August turned violent. One woman was killed and 19 people were injured when a man drove a sedan into a group of counter-protesters.
UF president: White nationalists have a game plan
The university previously denied a request from the National Policy Institute to hold a speaking event on Sept. 12 featuring Spencer.
The request was denied in light of the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, August 12. UF President W. Kent Fuchs said at the time "the First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others."
Spencer, who helped propagate the term "alt-right," is leader of the National Policy Institute, a lobbying organization for white supremacists that says it's dedicated to the "heritage, identity and future of people of European descent."
The school was told it had to allow Spencer to speak, even though there was a security risk. Fuchs has spent the last several days talking with students about the best ways to respond to the visit. Fuchs tweeted this Wednesday:
Attention & Confrontation are the oxygen on which extremists thrive.— W. Kent Fuchs (@PresidentFuchs) October 18, 2017
He also tweeted this video message Thursday morning from campus. In it, Fuchs said these visits are a move against education and the country's public research institutions, and the best thing for students to do is avoid Spencer's visit: