After declaring a commitment to free speech just four days ago, University of Florida (UF) President Kent Fuchs announced that infamous white supremacist Richard Spencer will not be coming to the Swamp after all.
The decision to deny the National Policy Institute’s request for space cited security concerns in the wake of the Charlottesville riots.
While President Fuchs stated that Spencer’s white supremacist views are antithetical to those of UF, he made it clear that the event was being turned down for other reasons.
“[T]he First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others,” Fuchs’ statement read in part.
“The likelihood of violence and potential injury – not the words or ideas – has caused us to take this action,” he concluded.
A quick scan online or on social media shows several calls for violence which factored into the university’s decision to deny the proposed September 12th event. One such online post, which Fuchs mentioned in his statement, was a proclamation that “The Next Battlefield is in Florida.”
While UF has a duty to keep its students safe on campus, the university is caving to what many call a heckler’s veto. A heckler’s veto is the suppression of speech by the government, because of the possibility of a violent reaction by hecklers.
“The First Amendment means allowing people to speak freely even when we disagree. This Spencer fellow and I do not agree on much at all but the First Amendment is a sacred Constitutional right. Governor Scott handled the situation correctly, calling the National Guard ahead of time, and the University of Florida should allow him to speak,” Florida State Rep. Jay Fant (R), a graduate of UF and candidate for Florida Attorney General, told Red Alert Politics.
This is the second denial that the National Policy Institute has received this week. A “White Lives Matter” rally was scheduled for September 11 at Texas A&M University, but was ultimately canceled, also due to safety concerns.
Spencer’s National Policy Institute plans to sue both universities, per online reporting.
UPDATE: Just spoke with the exec director of Richard Spencer's National Policy Institute. Like at Auburn, he says, they plan to sue @UF.— Claire McNeill (@clairemcneill) August 16, 2017