White supremacist and alt right leader Richard Spencer will speak at the University of Florida in Gainesville at 2:30 pm on Thursday, October 19. In anticipation of the event, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency, and has activated the state’s National Guard.
University officials estimate they will spend at least $500,000 on security for the event. Spencer’s past speeches have attracted a number of his fellow white supremacists, and this is unlikely to be an exception. Meanwhile, counter-protests are already underway on the northern Florida campus.
While this is Spencer’s first campus appearance since the violence and mayhem of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Gainesville is only the latest stop on Spencer’s tour of American college campuses.
On December 6, 2016, Spencer spoke at Texas A&M in a private room that had been rented by Preston Wiginton, a neo-Nazi and former racist skinhead. Wiginton was not the only white supremacist at the event; several Texas-based white supremacists also turned out to support Spencer, including members of both the Texas-based neo-Nazi Aryan Renaissance Society (ARS) and the White Lives Matter (WLM) movement
Spencer spoke at Auburn University on April 18, 2017, after a federal judge overruled the University’s decision to cancel the event on grounds of public safety. The event was attended by white supremacists, including Matt Heimbach, leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party, as well as members of the League of the South, a white supremacist group that advocates for southern secession. After a clash outside the event, three people were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, two of whom were counter-protesters. The third was Ryan M. King, a League of the South member from Montgomery, Alabama. King fought the charges, but a judge ultimately ruled against him.
Cameron Padgett, Spencer’s booking agent, arranged the University of Florida event. The self-described identitarian (a term frequently used in Europe to describe white nationalists) and Georgia State University student also organized Spencer’s appearance at Auburn University, and has tried to arrange speaking events for Spencer at Michigan State University, Louisiana State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pennsylvania State University and the Ohio State University.
Padgett and Kyle Bristow, a longtime white supremacist and practicing attorney, are currently suing Michigan State University for denying Spencer’s request to speak. Bristow, who most recently helped Unite the Right organizers sue the city of Charlottesville for violating their collective civil rights, is also threatening to sue the Ohio State University, where administrators have apparently proposed an alternative to Spencer’s plans to speak at the Student Union. According to Bristow, the lawsuit against OSU is on hold while they look for a solution.
The University of Cincinnati recently agreed to rent Spencer a room for a speaking event on campus. Bristow had threatened to sue the university if they denied Spencer’s request. The date for that event has not been announced.