By Michael Sainato
The University of Florida recently refused to compensate hourly part-time and temporary employees for the work hours they lost due to Hurricane Irma in early September, saving $500,000. Records obtained last week by media collective Unicorn Riot revealed that the University is spending the same amount, $500,000, to provide security for white supremacist neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, who is scheduled to speak at the University of Florida on October 19.
A counter-protest is planned on the afternoon of Spencer’s speech led by a “No Nazis at UF” movement. In a video to students, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs discouraged students from protesting against Spencer’s speaking event. “I urge you to do two things,” Fuchs said. “First, do not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking. I urge everyone to stay away from the Phillips Center Oct. 19th. Second, although I urge you to avoid the Spencer event, I ask that you not let Mr. Spencer’s message of hate and racism to go unchallenged. Make it clear that messages of hate on campus are contrary to our values.”
“@PresidentFuchs talks about not supporting Spencer and his white nationalist ideas, but constantly decides to help them,” tweeted the NoNazis at UF group in response. “Not only is the university paying $500,000 to bring Spencer here, they are also giving Spencer’s private security almost full reign. Fuchs actively tells students not to protest and gives Spencer control over everything. How does he not support them?”
Spencer was originally turned down because of security concerns. After his attorneys sued the university to allow him to speak on campus, an October date was agreed upon.
In addition to the security measures, the University of Florida says it will have to shut down an outpatient clinic and surgery center. The City of Gainesville will cancel a city commission meeting because of the resources the Spencer speech will require from the city. Scheduled classes are expected to meet as scheduled, though classes near the event have been cancelled.
Protesters are buying tickets to Spencer’s event through the school as a means to voice their opposition in person. In response, the University of Florida ceded their authority over ticket sales to Spencer’s alt-right group, the National Policy Institute, yielding authority granted to the school in the University of Florida Performing Arts’ rental agreement. Protesters called out the school administration for the decision, arguing it benefits Spencer and his group over the school and its student body.
The school also provided a list of banned items from the event and the protests surrounding it, which included backpacks, water bottles, purses, and masks or headgear often worn by protesters for anonymity and protection from mace and pepper spray.
In addition to the school’s preparation, the state’s governor, Rick Scott, signed a state of emergency measure so that outside agencies may assist the Alachua County Sheriff’s office.
Additional reporting by Baynard Woods