White supremacist and literal punching bag Richard Spencer is planning to speak at the University of Florida on Sept. 12.
The Gainesville Sun reports Spencer, who was at the center of the violent white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville this past weekend, and his organization, the National Policy Institute, have reserved a space on campus for a speaking event. Spencer's group bills itself as an "independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States."
School regulations allow Spencer's group and other non-university organizations rent space on campus as long as they provide rental expenses and security costs, the Sun reports. In a statement, UF President Kent Fuchs says the event is not affiliated with the university or any student groups on campus. The plans have not been finalized and are reportedly still under discussion, but UF leaders and campus police are developing a security plan for the event.
"For many in our community, including myself, this speaker’s presence would be deeply disturbing," Fuchs says in a statement. "What we’ve watched happen in Charlottesville, Virginia in the last 24 hours, is deplorable. I again denounce all statements and symbols of hate. The University of Florida is a community of learners, educators and scholars. We encourage open and honest dialogue, and we strive to build an inclusive environment where hate is not welcome. While this speaker’s views do not align with our values as an institution, we must follow the law, upholding the First Amendment not to discriminate based on content and provide access to a public space."
Three people died during the white supremacist rally this weekend in Charlottesville, including a 32-year-old woman who was killed after a driver rammed into a group of counter-protesters with his car. Fuchs is encouraging students to "send a message of unity" by not engaging with white supremacists, but activists have already created Facebook pages and events to protest Spencer's speech. More than 1,700 people have signed up for the "No Nazis at UF" rally organized by Mitch Emerson at UF on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m.
"We will share informations and support any actions taken to not allow this event to take place," the page says. "However, so long as this event is still scheduled, we will be coordinating rides from across the state to protest the event and not allow a repeat of the recent events from [University of Virginia] to happen here at the University of Florida."