Gov. Rick Scott declared a State of Emergency in Alachua County in anticipation of white nationalist Richard Spencer’s visit to the University of Florida this week.
Spencer is scheduled to make an appearance at the Gainesville-based university Thursday.
The governor said Monday he had declared the state of emergency to promote safety near the university. By declaring a state of emergency, regional and national law enforcement officers can assist local officials in preparing for the event.
“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion, however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority,” Scott said Monday.
“I have been in constant contact with Sheriff Darnell who has requested this Executive Order to ensure that county and local law enforcement have every needed resource,” the governor said.
Scott said constant communication with state and local law enforcement and University leadership to ensure that every request to the state is quickly granted to keep the public safe.
“This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe,” Scott said.
Gov. Scott announced he would be activating the Florida National Guard as needed in anticipation of Spencer’s arrival.
Spencer has frequently pushed the belief of a “superior race” and has also advocated for the creation of the “creation of a White Ethno-State on the North American continent.”
Spencer also attended a gathering of "alt-right" white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., this summer where a woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car slammed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Spencer was originally slated to make his speech at the Gainesville-based university in September, but the event was cancelled amidst “serious concerns for safety” as part of the reason the university said “no” to Spencer coming on campus.
Spencer’s speaking engagement was later changed to Oct. 19 after the university was threatened with a lawsuit.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and UF’s own president Kent Fuchs urged students to skip out on Spencer’s lecture last week.
“Richard Spencer craves publicity,” Rubio tweeted to his three million followers last week. “Desperate to incite outrage b/c terrified of @UF speech no one shows up for.”
Rubio then said he wasn’t telling people to turn a blind eye to Spencer, who has come under intense fire for his white supremacist beliefs.
“#GatorNation not asking u to ignore his racist message,” Rubio continued in a second tweet. “I am suggesting you embarrass him by denying him the attention he craves.”
“[Do] not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking,” Fuchs said. “They are intending to attract crowds and provoke a reaction in order to draw the media. By shunning him and his followers we will block his attempt for further visibility.”
UF officials have said the event will cost around $500,000 for security to cover the event, including costs for local law enforcement.