Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County ahead of white supremacist Richard Spencer's Thursday event at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.
The order mobilized resources from across the state to aid local law enforcement and requested assistance from federal agencies. Other Alabama and federal law enforcement agencies assisted the Auburn Police Division with Spencer's Auburn visit.
The University of Florida said they estimate they will spend at least $500,000 on security on campus and in Gainesville, Florida, during the event. The school is charging Spencer $10,564 to rent the facility and for security in the venue, but said they cannot pass the larger security cost onto Spencer or his organization National Policy Institute.
Spencer spoke at Foy Hall on Auburn's campus in April after a federal judge ordered the University to allow him to speak. Spencer's request to Auburn was initially denied.
Protestors and supporters of Spencer, many from out-of-town and state, flooded the University's campus during his visit.
In the executive order, Scott cited Spencer's Auburn visit among others, including his participation at the Charlottesville, Virginia, "Unite the Right" rally in August, where a man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters and struck and killed Heather Heyer.
James Alex Fields Jr. was arrested and charged for Heyer's murder shortly after. Fields is a supporter of neo-Nazi and other far-right groups, according to The New York Times.
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"[P]rior speaking engagements involving Mr. Spencer at universities in Alabama, California, Texas and Virginia have sparked protests and counter-protests resulting in episodes of violence, civil unrest and multiple arrests," the order says.
Three people were arrested during Spencer's Auburn event following a fight outside of Foy Hall.
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“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," Scott said in a press release today. "This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe.”
The University of Florida, like Auburn, initially blocked Spencer's request to speak in September.
“The main difference I see between how things panned out at Auburn with Richard Spencer and how we are handling it is Charlottesville,” said Janine Sikes, assistant vice president of public affairs for the University of Florida, after Spencer's request was denied. “Our decision was solely based on safety concerns, not ideology.”
After being rejected, the National Policy Institute threatened to sue the university. School officials said the original request was blocked due to "specific security threats," and said they would allow him to visit if he requested a different date.
"Although UF leadership has denounced Spencer's white supremacist rhetoric, the University, as a state entity, must allow the free expression of all viewpoints," an Oct. 5 University of Florida press release said.
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