Massive security presence at Univ. of Florida for Richard Spencer speech

Credit: WFLA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — More than 500 officers are on hand as the University of Florida prepares for an event featuring white nationalist Richard Spencer, who will speak for the first time since the deadly rallies in Charlottesville back in August.

Troopers are equipped with riot shields and nearby roads are shut down. Troopers are on the ground, perched on rooftops and inside buildings, ready to handle any outbreak of violence.

Shortly after noon on Thursday, police arrested one man on a charge of having a firearm on campus. WFLA crews were there when the man was escorted away in handcuffs.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions on campus about the First Amendment and free speech,” university President W. Kent Fuchs said in a telephone interview with NBC News. “It’s been surprising to many students that hate speech cannot be banned from a public university.”

Richard Spencer
FILE – In this Dec. 6, 2016, file photo, Richard Spencer, who leads a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism, speaks at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas. Professor C. Christine Fair told The Associated Press on Monday, May 22, 2017, that the Old Town Sport&Health club in Alexandria, Va., informed her that it terminated the membership of Spencer following last Wednesday’s confrontation in the gym where she called him a neo-Nazi. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Many students claim they will be protesting peacefully outside of the Phillips Center where Spencer is scheduled to speak. The group “No Nazis at UF” has more than 1,000 people on its Facebook page. One parking lot will be reserved for protesters.

Other students will participate in a virtual assembly during Richard Spencer’s speech.

Some students have written statements promoting unity on campus sidewalks. One says, “Diversity is beautiful” another says “I won’t back down. Stand up for love.”

The university is working closely with all law enforcement on campus. They urge anyone on campus during the event to download the GATORSAFE app and to call 911 if they see anything suspicious.

On Monday, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency ahead of Spencer’s speech.

UF has released a long list of items that are banned from today’s event.

Spencer is scheduled to speak at 2:30 this afternoon. He will hold a news conference at 12:45 with the media. You can watch that live on WFLA.com and the WFLA Facebook page.