Florida declares emergency before white nationalist speech

The governor of Florida has issued a state of emergency because a white nationalist is due to speak at a university campus this week.

Richard Spencer – a figure in the racist “alt-right” movement – is due to speak at the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus on Thursday.

The order issued by Governor Rick Scott came after the county sheriff appealed to the state for security assistance.

The governor’s action activates the state’s National Guard troops.

The university said it was not aware of any “specific heightened threat”, but Mr Scott warned on Monday that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent”.

“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion, however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority,” Mr Scott said in a statement accompanying the state of emergency directive.

The University of Florida at first tried to prevent Mr Spencer from speaking on campus in August after an “alt-right” rally near the University of Virginia led to violent clashes and one death.

At that event in Charlottesville, which Mr Spencer helped organise, a large group of far-right activists chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” (a Nazi slogan).

The University of Florida (UF) later reversed course and chose to allow Mr Spencer and his group – the National Policy Institute – to speak after hearing concerns about free speech.

In announcing the climbdown, university president W Kent Fuchs complained in a letter to students that “UF is required by law to allow Mr Spencer to speak his racist views on our campus”.

He added that the university is “not allowed by law to bill him for the full costs of keeping our campus safe, which exceed more than a half million dollars”.

It will instead charge him only of $10,564 (£8,000) to rent the facility and for security within the venue.
In an online Q&A of more than 30 questions, the university explained that due to a legal doctrine known as the “heckler’s veto” they are unable to charge Mr Spencer’s group for the enhanced security.

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