University of Florida denies request to have white rights activist Richard Spencer speak on campus
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — White rights activist Richard Spencer is running out of campuses to host him.
The University of Florida shut down a request by Spencer’s group to have him speak on September 12.
“Amid serious concerns for safety, we have decided to deny the National Policy Institute’s request to rent event space at the University of Florida,” university president W. Kent Fuchs posted on Facebook.
“This decision was made after assessing potential risks with campus, community, state and federal law enforcement officials following violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., and continued calls online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: “The Next Battlefield is in Florida.”
Fuchs said the decision stemmed from the potential for violence, not the words or ideas.
“I find the racist rhetoric of Richard Spencer and white nationalism repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for,” Fuchs wrote.
“That said, the University of Florida remains unwaveringly dedicated to free speech and the spirit of public discourse. However, the First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others.”
Spencer has been described as both a white nationalist and a white supremacist.
“I don’t use the term white nationalist to describe myself,” he has said. “I like the term alt-right. It has an openness to it. And immediately understandable. We’re coming from a new perspective.”
He told CNN he wants to make “white privilege great again.”
“Ultimately, America is a white country,” he told CNN’s W. Kamau Bell in an episode of “United Shades of America.”
“We bring a level of civilization. We’re more interested in power. We’re more interested in exploration and domination. I just want to bathe in white privilege.”
Denied at Texas A&M, too
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and other extremist groups had planned to hold a “white lives matter” rally at Texas A&M on September 11.
The canceled event, which Spencer was supposed to headline, was inspired by the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, according to Texas A&M’s student newspaper The Battalion.
But the College Station campus canceled that event two days after a driver mowed down a crowd denouncing white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Spencer had already spoken at Texas A&M in December, speaking about white supremacy for two hours to a room of 400 people — the vast majority being protesters.
“At the end of the day, America belongs to white men,” he said at the time.
Controversy over Spencer’s December appearance led the school to later change its campus speaker policy. Now, outside groups or individuals to have sponsorship from a university-sanctioned group to reserve campus facilities.
And Preston Wiginton, the man who was organizing the “white lives matter” rally, didn’t have that campus support.
“None of the 1,200-plus campus organizations invited Preston Wiginton nor did they agree to sponsor his events in December 2016 or on September 11 of this year,” Texas A&M said in a statement.
“Linking the tragedy of Charlottesville with the Texas A&M event creates a major security risk on our campus.”