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Florida Governor Declares State of Emergency for White Nationalist Richard Spencer's Visit

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for white nationalist Richard Spencer's visit Thursday to the University of Florida.
Image: Richard Spencer
Richard Spencer at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Feb. 23.Joshua Roberts / Reuters file

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency to help authorities prepare for white nationalist Richard Spencer's coming appearance at the University of Florida.

Spencer, an organizer of the violent August rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended with the killing of a counterprotester, is scheduled to speak Thursday at the university's Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The school administration has denounced Spencer and urged people to stay away, but it said it couldn't block the event because of free speech concerns.

Scott expressed the same conflicting principles.

"We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion," he said in a statement that announced the state of emergency. "However, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority."

Scott issued the order at the request of law enforcement authorities in Gainesville. The declaration put state authorities in charge of tamping down and responding to violence. Scott called his order "an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe."

Spencer's event, one of several planned around the South this fall, was organized by his National Policy Institute, but it wasn't publicized by the university or the theater. The organization, which has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy group, has reportedly controlled tickets to the event tightly, saying it would give them away free just before the event.

The University of Florida said that it was charging the organization $10,564 for rent and security inside the theater but that it couldn't charge it for any additional security costs.