GAINESVILLE — Neo-nazi poster boy Richard Spencer, who was denied access to the University of Florida last month, is now scheduled to make an appearance in a couple of weeks.
The white supremacist, known for his involvement in the Charlottesville riot that resulted in the death of a young woman, previewed his UF speech with another torchlight rally in Charlottesville this past Saturday that had his fellow bigots chanting, “You will not replace us.”
UF had rescinded its invite to Spencer last month after the University of Virginia riots in August led to fellow neo-nazi James Fields driving into a crowd of people and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring several others.
Originally, UF president W. Kent Fuchs had defended the decision to not allow Spencer to speak by saying, “I find the racist rhetoric of Richard Spencer and white nationalism repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for. 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.”
Now, Fuchs seems to have lamely backtracked on his statement.
UF is expected to spend $500,000 to try to guarantee Spencer’s safety. Hurricane victims anyone, or crippling student loan debt?
Now, UF’s only response is from spokeswoman Janine Sikes, who said yesterday, ”We are paying attention. Spencer’s white supremacist rhetoric, the university, as a state entity, must allow the free expression of all viewpoints.” Really?
Dwayne Fletcher, the president of the University of Florida’s Black Student Union said, “People are concerned for their well-being and safety. I personally don’t want him on campus either, especially since the incidents in Charlottesville.”
“Gainesville will definitely have a different atmosphere in the days to come, and afterward, because of his presence,” Fletcher added.
Last spring, a federal judge denied Auburn University’s decision to cancel an appearance by Spencer, stating he did not explicitly advocate violence and that he was within his constitutional rights to spew his racist garbage.
Then in September, Cameron Padgett, Spencer’s tour manager, sued Michigan State University, stating that Spencer simply supports an “identitarian philosophy … a Eurocentric political ideology which advocates the preservation of national identity and a return to traditional Western values.” Hitler would be proud.
Last week, Spencer defended his brand of white trash stating that “When one just says things that are anodyne or conventional, free speech is not in question. But when someone says something controversial and radical, then the rubber hits the road.” And, one might say, kills an innocent young woman.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Spencer boasted. “I expect good intellectual pushback from the students. That’s part of the fun of it all.”
David Quillen, the head of the University of Florida faculty senate, added some sense to the controversy by stating, “We’re not going to have a debate, because these aren’t issues people need to debate. Bigotry and racism don’t need debate – they are what they are.”
“Mr. Spencer’s visit causes real fear and anxiety in some of our faculty, staff and students. This fear will cause some to miss classes, postpone exams and interferes with our educational, research and service missions,” he added. “I don’t see the worth outweighing the risk, especially in light of what happened in Charlottesville.”