Jewish Groups Brace for University of Florida Talk by White Supremacist Richard Spencer
Jewish groups are voicing alarm and cautioning the public to avoid a talk on Thursday afternoon by white supremacist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, which hosts more Jewish students than any other college in North America.
The Anti-Defamation League announced on Wednesday it was coordinating with UF officials, law enforcement and community leaders ahead of Spencer’s appearance.
Spencer was previously a featured speaker at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, where white supremacist protesters chanted, “You will not replace us,” and the Nazi slogan, “blood and soil.” Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 others injured when a car rammed into a crowd of counter-demonstrators during the gathering.
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday in Alachua County, where UF is located, in preparation for mass protests and counter-protests surrounding the Spencer event. A Facebook event titled “No Nazis at UF — Protest Richard Spencer” had more than 3,000 RSVPs as of 10:00 a.m. on Thursday.
More than 500 officers are expected to be on campus to help maintain order, according to UF President W. Kent Fuchs.
“Richard Spencer’s scheduled appearance at the University of Florida and other campuses is part of a concerted effort by white supremacists to recruit college students to build new support for their hateful and bigoted ideologies,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stated. “His vile rhetoric and radical beliefs belong in the darkest shadows, not in our bright public forums.”
“It’s not lost on us that he wants to speak at the university with the largest population of Jewish students,” Greenblatt added. According to Hillel International, UF has an undergraduate Jewish student population of 6,500, the biggest in the country.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) on Wednesday urged students to boycott Spencer’s talk, with Brian Lipton — director of AJC’s West Coast Florida Region — saying, “The First Amendment protects hate speech, but also empowers those of us who believe in the fundamental democratic values of the United States to peacefully oppose the purveyors of hatred.”
The Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student Center at UF said it would be open for extended hours with extra security on Thursday to provide students with a safe space. It was also planning to host a Good Deed Marathon, encouraging students and community members to make a positive impact and “counter darkness with light.”
“It is especially important now that all people practice extra goodness and kindness, proving that hate and evil will never win,” said Chanie Goldman, codirector of Chabad UF. “It’s important on this day that everyone will have a positive way to refocus and contribute in a way of love.”
Spencer is also expected to speak at a nationalist conference in Warsaw, Poland next month about the future of the European continent “after the fall of the West.”