Article by Alejandro Alvarez
Video contributed by Jack Edmondson
Livestream contributed by Jimmy Evans
This post will be updated with additional video as News2Share receives it.
Hundreds of protesters gathered to confront white nationalist Richard Spencer on Thursday during his controversial visit to the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Spencer’s post-Charlottesville free speech tour at public campuses had already been met with considerable opposition at its first venue at Texas A&M, whose administration canceled his speech fearing violence in the wake of fatal clashes on August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A repeat of that violence was plausible enough that it prompted Florida Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in the city, authorizing law enforcement to organize – preparations which are estimated to have cost upwards of $500,000 in security upgrades and reinforcements on campus and around Gainesville. According to University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs, there were more police on campus during the event than at any other point in the institution’s 112-year history.
Spencer held a press conference and forum with an audience which ultimately consisted of more protesters than not, who heckled him with chants like “go home” and “we don’t want your Nazi hate” for over an hour. After starting out with an explanation of his advocacy for a white identity, Spencer seemingly grew impatient with the persistent disruptions, joining white nationalist podcast host Mike Enoch in likening hecklers to “poor little babies” because of their “bad behavior.” Outside, one protester drew a comparison between Spencer and Adolf Hitler.
What few clashes there were remained relatively confined during brief moments of tensions. One man with a shirt imprinted with swastikas was escorted out of sight by law enforcement after being pummeled in the chin while being pursued by protesters. A man with a firearm was taken into custody early on was later described as an armed security guard hired by media. An effort to intercept audience members as they left the venue led to shoves and heated arguments, but no injuries. It is unclear if any participants were arrested.
— Luis Santana (@LuisSantana) October 19, 2017
Spencer’s event comes over two months after clashes between white supremacists and antifascist protesters left one dead and dozens injured in violence stemming from the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville. Spencer, perceiving the collapse of “Unite the Right” as an attack on free speech, embarked on a nationwide tour of college campuses meant to promote a white ethno-state.
After an August 11 march attended by hundreds of white nationalists and supremacists with tiki torches on the University of Virginia’s main campus, Spencer held an unannounced event in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park on October 7 of a similar nature but far smaller magnitude.
At the foot of Robert E. Lee’s statue, shrouded in a black tarp not long after the events of August 12, Spencer and about 40 others chanted “we will be back.”
Jimmy Evans contributed a livestream for News2Share throughout the day. He is an independent non-fiction filmmaker and journalist based in Florida. He is currently developing a feature length documentary about environmentalist Sam Van Leer. Jack Edmondson also contributed footage to this report. He is an independent filmmaker and composer who is working with Jimmy on the aforementioned environmental film.