GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Thousands of people turned up Thursday at
the University of Florida to protest an afternoon speech by a
prominent white supremacist, making their message clear:
Richard Spencer, and those like him, are not welcome.
Well before Spencer’s speech, set to start at 2:30 p.m. (EDT)
at a place that did not invite him, a mass of protestors was on
hand to greet him.
“Not in our town, not in our state, we don’t want your Nazi
hate!” protestors chanted as they made their way to the
Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where Spencer was to
appear. Other popular chants included “Alt-right you can’t
hide, you support genocide!” and “No Trump, no KKK, no Facist
There were no initial reports of violence prior to Spencer’s
But the Anti-Defamation League warned that Andrew Anglin, a
neo-Nazi who runs The Daily Stormer, encouraged his followers
to target Jewish and black
religious and cultural institutions in the area. The
intention is to make locals think that “the entire city is
taken over by our guys,” Anglin said in a post, according to
In the two months since Spencer was a featured speaker at the
large white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia —
which was marked by violence, including James Alex Fields Jr.
allegedly rammed into
counter-protesters with a car, killing 32-year-old Heather
Heyer — he has been threatening to sue state universities
across the country who refuse to provide him a speaking
University of Florida officials initially denied his request to
speak on campus, citing security concerns, but ultimately
relented. For First Amendment reasons, the university said,
Spencer had to be allowed to speak, even if no one invited him. He paid
$10,000 to rent use of the Phillips Center on campus.
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe (D) was among many speaking out
against the white supremacist.
“We need to live our lives as normal and not let this disrupt
us,” Poe told HuffPost Thursday morning. “Because that’s what
terrorists do ― they want to disrupt your life, they want to
get into your psyche and make you afraid to live a normal, free
Misinformation is a common tactic of the alt-right. Be on
guard with rumor control.
— Lauren Poe (@PoeforMayor)
October 18, 2017
When asked if he considers Spencer is a terrorist, the mayor
said, “Absolutely, there’s no question.”
“He absolutely intends to create terror in people and that’s
his tactic,” Poe said. “There’s no question that he is a
terrorist leader and that his followers look to commit acts of
terror to disrupt our community.”
Thursday’s speech was Spencer’s first stop on a planned tour of
college campuses across America.
During the past few weeks, state, city, and college officials
have worked to try to ensure that Gainesville did not become
The school spent $500,000 on security — roughly equal to the
yearly tuition for 78 in-state undergraduate students.
A large banner near the designated campus site for people to
protest Spencer listed dozens of forbidden items, including
backpacks, shields, fireworks, clubs, sticks or
A list of prohibited items near the site set aside for those
protesting Richard Spencer at the University of Florida in
Gainesville. (Chris McGonigal/HuffPost)
On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of
emergency for Spencer’s appearance, citing the
violence in Charlottesville. Thursday morning,
Gainesville was teeming with police from across the
Roads and bus routes were shut down. A university outpatient
clinic and surgerical center shuttered, postponing medical
services to a later date. The school is officially open, but
many classes were cancelled.
On Wednesday night, Spencer talked to HuffPost at a remote
location in the Florida countryside. Standing outside the luxe
ranch-style house where he was staying — for security
reasons, he said — he drank Angel’s Envy bourbon and
puffed on a cigar.
A dozen or so other white nationalists were with him, among
them Identity Evropa leader Eli Mosley, one of the main
organizers of the Charlottesville event, and Evan McLaren,
executive director of the National Policy Institute, which the
Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group.
Spencer serves as the NPI’s president.
Spencer balked when HuffPost asserted he was a Nazi. “I’m not a
Nazi,” he said. “How am I Nazi? At no point in my life have I
ever been a Nazi. This is just a slur word.”
Spencer has been seen in multiple videos giving Nazi salutes.
He and his supporters chanted Nazi slogans in Charlottesville.
He’s called for the creation of a “white ethno-state” and the
“peaceful ethnic cleansing of the United States.”
Mosley, Spencer’s friend and ally, has written about the
“struggle for total Aryan Victory” and the “Nazification of
Given all that, Spencer’s rebranding of organized white
supremacism in America as the “alt-right” would appear nothing
more than a superficial rebranding aimed at mass appeal.
Spencer was unapologetic about the trouble and costs his
Gainesville appearance had caused. The university’s security
tab? That’s the fault of the far-left group Antifa and other
counter-protesters ― they’re the violent ones, he said.
He will gauge his Thursday event a success, he said, if “a
packed arena” attends his speech, it gets a “splash in terms of
media” and “no one gets hurt.”
During a speech in New York City on Thursday, former President
George W. Bush spoke out against people like Spencer.
“Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against
the American creed,” Bush said.
Mosley said that the rally in Charlottesville and Spencer’s
Gainesville speech ― and future appearances by him at college
campuses ― are part of an effort to push their movement from an
online phenomenon to one with “real-life effects on the real
“We’ve accomplished that,” he said. “It’s not going back. It’s
never going to go back. We’re here to stay. People need to get
used to us they need to get used to our ideas.”
This is a developing story, check back for updates. Emily
Watson contributed reporting from Gainesville. Sebastian
Murdock contributed reporting from New York.
- This article originally appeared on