White supremacist Richard Spencer brings protests, safety concerns to Gainesville

Shot fired, no one hurt

By Associated Press , Amy Viteri - Investigative Reporter
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. - When white nationalist Richard Spencer geared up to deliver his controversial speech on his racist views at the University of Florida on Thursday, no one seemed to want to listen. 

"Say it loud, say it clear, Nazis are not welcome here," the crowd chanted as he stood on stage. 

The event was Spencer's first visit to a college campus since he and others participated in the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.

"You know that what I'm saying is going to change the world," Spencer said back to the group. "You're all going to fail. We are stronger than you and you all know it." 

As time went on, Spencer was getting frustrated and began chastising the crowd and calling them preschoolers. 

In a news conference earlier in the day, he defended his views. 

"I am brining ideas that are not being taught in this stifling environment and that is a very good thing," Spencer said. 

There were some supporters in the audience. 

"I'm here to listen," Jenny Taylor said. 

Kyle Hanophy from Broward County said he respects Spencer. 

"The fact that he's out here, he puts a face out there he gets punched in the face," Spencer said. 

University and local officials are wary that Thursday's event could also become violent, and they have taken a number of steps to prevent that.

At about 5:30 p.m., there were reports of a single shot being fired by a man in a silver Jeep, according to Gainesville police. No one was hit by the bullet.

"As we were across the street we heard this loud (sound) like a .38 or something going off," Wesley Durrance said. 

Durrance was walking about a mile off campus when the person opened fire on his friends, who were carrying protest signs and sitting at a bus stop. He believes the person who shot the gun was a white supremacist. 

"They said they had these whatever hair cuts and they just fit this appearance," he said. "They said some kind of Nazi something to them." 

The protests grew tense at moments and a fight broke out at one point over one man who was wearing Nazi symbols. Crowds pushed the man up to a police barricade, where he eventually sought protection. 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Wednesday for Alachua County, where the university is located, to enable law enforcement agencies to work together more efficiently. He also provided for the National Guard to be activated if necessary.

"I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent," Scott said in the executive order declaring the state of emergency.

The event puts the university in the middle of an ongoing debate about what constitutes protected speech and its limits.

University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs denounced Spencer's white supremacist platform as abhorrent in a letter to students but said the school could not stop him from renting the Phillips Center for the event.

Fara Moskowitz, the president of the Lubavitch-Chabad Student Group at the university, said it was a "very weird time on campus" ahead of the protests.

"There's a lot of fear, there's a lot of anxiety," she said. "There's a lot of just unknown what's going to happen."

Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute, is a leader of the white supremacist movement that advocates for a white "awakening" and a white state.

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