GAINESVILLE Fla. (WSVN) – Richard Spencer, a white supremacist and self-proclaimed leader in the White Nationalist movement may be speaking at the University of Florida in September.
According to school officials at the University of Florida, they’ve been asked for space to let Spencer speak on campus on Sept. 12, but those opposed are already giving push back.
Spencer has said his organization, the National Policy Institute, is an “independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States.”
In a letter to the school community, UF President W. Kent Fuchs said no group asked for or sponsored Spencer’s speaking engagement, but the university is still obligated to let him appear since his organization reserved space at the school for the event.
“This organization is unaffiliated with the university, and no student groups or other groups affiliated with the university are sponsoring this speech. This event is not finalized, and it is still under discussion,” Fuchs wrote. “While this speaker’s views do not align with our values as an institution, we must follow the law, upholding the First Amendment not to discriminate based on content and provide access to a public space.”
On the same day images from the Charlottesville rally were released, Fuchs notified staff and students about the appearance of the organizer of that Virginia rally.
“If they had policed the area and allowed this demonstration to occur, it would be over,” Spencer said. “We would have gone home, and we probably wouldn’t have come back. Now we’ll never back down.”
Fuchs isn’t either. He said in a letter, “For many in our community, including myself, this speaker’s presence would be deeply disturbing. What we’ve watched happen in Charlottesville, VA., in the last 24 hours, is deplorable. I again denounce all statements and symbols of hate.”
Gator football coach Jim McElwain agreed with Fuchs’ statement. “Any extremist group — I don’t care, nationalist, whatever they’re called — it’s unacceptable,” he said.
The university allows groups like Spencer’s to rent space on campus if they cover rental expenses and security costs.
Protests have already been organized for Spencer’s rally on UF’s campus. “Attacking Jewish people, Muslim people, gay people, transgender people, anyone who doesn’t fit into their ideals are under attack,” said Mitch Emerson, protest organizer. “It’s terrifying, and we need to unite against it.”
McElwain said he believes the best thing the Gator community can do is stand firm in their message.
“We obviously do not in any way believe in any of their views,” McElwain said. “To react to it or to overreact to it, no. What makes extremists nervous is when they can’t get to you. Right? Because you’re true to your beliefs, and you know what? It’s a bad deal.”
According to UF officials, there is no contract for the event, and no fees have been paid.
The Florida university isn’t the only school that has apparently received notification of a so-called White Lives Matter rally. The student newspaper at Texas A&M University reported on Sunday that Spencer is also scheduled to speak at a rally on campus, just one day before his rally at UF.
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