White supremacist and alt-right leader Richard Spencer held an event at the University of Florida in Gainesville on October 19th. This was Spencer’s first appearance at a college campus since his participation in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on August 11th and 12th. Spencer attended the University of Virginia from 1997 to 2001 as an undergraduate.
Although University of Florida President Kent Fuch expressed deep disapproval of Spencer’s event and ideology, he stated that there was no way of stopping the UVa grad from renting out the venue.
In order to prevent a scene like that of Charlottesville in August, a state of emergency was implemented by Florida, which permitted increased police presence and additional security measures.
Prior to the event, a large crowd of protestors formed outside of the arena. These protestors carried signs, heckled members of the alt-right, and chanted verbal opposition to Spencer’s beliefs. Arrests were made for an attempted shooting by radical white supremacists, possession of firearms, and other minor charges on both sides of the political spectrum.
Thursday nonetheless was described as “generally much calmer than previous white supremacy protests” by UF journalism student Evyn Moon, who was covering the event from outside the venue. Moon also added that she thought this was due to “increased security” and that the school was well prepared based on their knowledge of previous events in Charlottesville.
Contrary to Spencer’s statement that he would not turn away anyone from his speech because he wanted to generate an open dialogue, media on site explained that “many protestors…were turned away.”
Some protestors however, made it into the arena and greeted Spencer with verbal attacks. The heckling continued throughout the entire event. Spencer repeatedly attempted to speak over his opposition to discuss his general platform and was successful at times. Constant contradiction and questioning by protesters clearly frustrated him, and Spencer eventually ended the event early.
Spencer has been increasingly active in attempting to spread his alt-right ideologies to millennials on college campuses. The University of Cincinnati has agreed to let Spencer speak but his proposed events were recently rejected by Michigan State University and Ohio State University.
Just a few weeks ago in an interview with WUVA News, Spencer warned that he would “be back [in Charlottesville] sooner than you might imagine.”