Gainesville braces for worst as white nationalist speech nears

In less than 24 hours, white nationalist Richard Spencer is set to speak at the University of Florida, and his scheduled appearance is already the talk of the campus.

Law enforcement in Gainesville said they are preparing for the worst.

"Yes, we are planned for things to erupt, civil unrest, violence things of that nature," Sgt. Chris Sims of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office said.

Sims said he hopes law enforcement doesn’t have to use those plans, but after the deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August they aren’t taking any chances.

"We got our back," Sims said. "We're here to protect you." 

Students gathered to pray ahead of the speech and some left campus altogether out of concern over violence. 

The presence of law enforcement on campus was obvious, and so was the message from students that Spencer is not welcome.

"I'm worried about what's going to happen," Bryana Tianga, a student who is from Pembroke Pines, said.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday, giving the county access to resources, including the national guard, should things escalate.

"My goal is everybody be safe. We have the First Amendment, everybody has their First Amendment rights but we're not going to tolerate any violence," Scott said.

And law enforcement from across the state is already in place, ready to help.

"I know that agencies from South Florida are sending help, Broward Sheriff's Office and Florida Highway Patrol they're all coming up here," Tianga said.

Tianga said both of her parents work for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Miami-Dade police and BSO have sent resources to Gainesville.

For those who do attend the event, or show up to protest – the university has posted a banner listing the many items that aren’t allowed in the area, which include masks, tobacco and water bottles.

Some students are planning on protesting the speech. 

"Personally I feel angry that the university is allowing this man to speak," Wallace Mazon, a student, said. "We have a white supremacist, neo-Nazi coming here to spread an ideology of hate." 

The university is spending an estimated $500,000 on security for the event. 

"The costs are high, but what cost do you put on a human life or injuries," said Janine Sikes, assistant vice president for public affairs at the university.


This BBSNews article was syndicated from News | WPLG, and written by News | WPLG. Read the original article here.

This BBSNews article originally appeared on News | WPLG.