Concerns grow over safety on UF's campus before Richard Spencer speaks

By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
October 17, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A planned appearance of White Nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida continues to evoke emotion at the state capitol.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is urging students at UF not to attend.

"I would urge all students not to go to that. There's no place for hatred and espousing these horrible views," she said.

How students will react to the controversial speaker is a concern.

A Brookings Institute study found a bare majority of 51 percent of college students think it's okay to shout and drown out speech they find offensive.

A quick, informal survey at FSU echoed those findings.

"I think you should listen to what anyone has to say, then wait with your rebuttal," said Karl Roche from Jacksonville.

"Yeah, you can shout over someone that's exercising their free speech," said Serafina Cruz from Dayton, Ohio.

More shockingly, the same study found one out of five students agreed violence was okay to use against offensive speakers.

All of the students we interviewed say they disagreed with using violence. But, none were surprised by how many had answered "yes," in the survey.

"I mean, obviously, there's going to be a split between people. So, some people are going to think violence is the answer," said Alexandra Marcus.

Ahead of Spencer's planned UF visit, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency to protect students.

"I believe in the first amendment rights that people have," he said. "I do expect people to be safe. I won't condone any violence."

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner, Rick Swearingen, will be in Gainesville to oversee law enforcement operations.

“Those who show up to exercise their constitutional right under the first amendment, they will have no issues," Swearingen explained. "Those who show up to engage or encourage violence, they're going to have problems.”

Protests have already begun to be held on UF's campus ahead of Spencer's appearance.

The Brookings Institute study also found six out of ten students believe event organizers are legally required to provide opposing viewpoints. No such law exists.

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