By Kaitlin Armstrong
On Oct. 19, Richard Spencer, a well-known whte supremacist, rented a space at the University of Florida to give a speech to students on campus. To prevent a potetentially dangerous situation, Florida Governor Rick Scott responded to Spencer’s presence by declaring a state of emergency to secure the campus and the community.
The university made it clear to students, faculty and community that Spencer was not personally invited to the campus and actually spent $10,000 to rent out the auditorium to speak to students. Many students were not silent about their disapproval for hosting a representation for hateful speech on their campus.
One UF student spoke out about Spencer and how she felt about the situation.
“I appreciate the security on campus but I feel like everyone should turn away from his speech and not give him the satisfaction that he wants,” said Sabrina Alvarez. “If we don’t take his speech seriously, it would make him less powerful.”
Many students signed up to protest against Spencer speaking at the school. Another student was able to give a very detailed and inside look on how the campus handled the speech leading up to it and how his peers reacted.
“I understand that there’s nothing the university can do, it is a public campus so it isn’t like we can say no,” said Anthony Matarazzo, senior at UF.
The president emailed the students several times about this event because if Spencer rented the space, UF would have to let him speak. Both UF and the city of Gainesville have made safety the priority above everything else.
“Personally, [I believe] it’s the dumbest thing and the worst venue,” said Matarazzo. “College campuses are the most progressive people and if you’re trying to spread hate and white supremacy going to a public university like UF isn’t a good idea. UF is so diverse and inclusive with faculty and students, he isn’t going to have an audience and he’ll be speaking to no one. I believe in free speech but not if it’s hateful.”
That Thursday, classes were technically cancelled because professors were open to excusing students from class that did not feel comfortable or safe on campus that day. For many students, this event was seen as a waste of money. There was $600,000 spent on security that could’ve been put towards other expences.
There was a protest done through a Facebook group about tickets for the event. Students could use their student ID to get two tickets per person. The goal of the Facebook group was to get tickets and not show up in form of a protest.
Local restaurants and bars were offering up free drinks and meals for students that brought in tickets for Spencer’s speech. Spencer’s group caught wind of what was happening and made the screening process for tickets difficult and was even discriminating against certain people from getting tickets.
This whole situation, albeit negative, was able to bring the community of UF and Gainesville together to stand against hate. There were peaceful protests going on throughout the campus to combat Spencer who is known for his hateful speech towards specific groups of people. Standing together allowed UF to show Richard Spencer, and the rest of the country, that hateful speech and actions will not be tolerated.