University of Florida denies request for white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak

The University of Florida on Wednesday announced that it has denied a request for co-editor and outspoken white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on campus next month.

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Kent Fuchs, president of the university, said last week that the National Policy Institute, which is led by Spencer, contacted officials to reserve space for an event on campus. The event was expected to feature Spencer as a guest speaker. 

But following violent, racially-charged unrest over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, Fuchs said the university denied the National Policy Institute’s request, citing public safety concerns.

>> Related: ‘Alt-right’ activist Richard Spencer plans visit to University of Florida 

“This decision was made after assessing potential risks with campus, community, state and federal law enforcement officials following violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, and continued calls online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville, such as those decreeing: ‘The Next Battlefield is in Florida,’” Fuchs said.

School regulations allow non-university groups, organizations and people to rent space on campus, although the groups are expected to cover rental expenses and security costs.

Posted by Office of the President at University of Florida on Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Fuchs said no student or university-affiliated groups were sponsoring the event.

“I find the racist rhetoric of Richard Spencer and white nationalism repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for,” Fuchs said. He added that the university is dedicated to free speech, but added that “the First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others.”

>> Related: White nationalist rally at A&M canceled, Texas lawmaker says

“The likelihood of violence and potential injury – not the words or ideas – has caused us to take this action,” Fuchs said.

Protests in Charlottesville took a violent turn over the weekend when crowds gathered for a rally organized by white supremacists and aimed at protesting the removal of a Confederate memorial from the city’s Emancipation Park clashed with counterprotesters demonstrating against white supremacism.

>> Related: Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for violence in Charlottesville

The protests left several injured and a 32-year-old woman dead.

Police said a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr., 20, slammed into two other vehicles and counterprotesters on Saturday, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Fields, of Ohio, faces charges including second-degree murder and malicious wounding.

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