Florida governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Alachua County, Florida, home of the University of Florida, freeing up millions in aid for local law enforcement, who will try to keep the peace while white nationalist Richard Spencer speaks to students on campus this Thursday.
Spencer, a prominent "alt-right" figure, led a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, back in August that descended into violence, leaving one anti-fascist protester dead at the hands of a Spencer acolyte.
After the horrifying incident, the University of Florida cancelled a planned event starring Spencer and other "thinkers" from his racist National Policy Institute, out of fear that a similar confrontation at the school could lead to violence. But when Spencer threatened to sue, the University said they'd find a way to accommodate the event, if Spencer selected a different date.
Citing Spencer's need to provoke a reaction among his opponents, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs urged students to stay home and away from campus on Thursday, but both protests and counter-protests are expected.
Gov. Rick Scott's order gives local law police the green light to work with state-level law enforcement, and gives local authorities the ability to bring in more manpower and equipment to handle whatever might accompany Spencer's event. After speaking with County Sheriffs in Alachua, Scott also activated the Florida National Guard, who will step in to help keep the peace if necessary.
Scott says that the measures may seem extreme, but as governor, he has a responsibility both to protect peoples' First Amendment rights as well as the safety of his citizens.
"We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion; however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority," Scott's office said in a statement. "This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe."
The state and university will likely spend more than $500,000 in security costs.