- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2017

The University of Florida has begrudgingly agreed to host controversial white nationalist Richard Spencer this month, setting the stage for his first campus event since his appearance at the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was canceled amid clashes between participants and protesters.

Mr. Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute, is scheduled to speak October 12 at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus, administrators said Thursday, notwithstanding complaints and safety concerns raised in the wake of “Unite the Right” descending into chaos that ended in the death of a protester and two police officers.

Mr. Spencer was not invited to speak on campus, the university said in a statement, but has requested and received permission to rent space inside the Phillips Center.

“Although UF leadership has denounced Spencer’s white supremacist rhetoric, the University, as a state entity, must allow the free expression of all viewpoints,” the school said Thursday.

“The university has repeatedly stated that it will not be affiliated with the event in any way, but as a public institution, UF is legally obligated to allow the expression of many viewpoints by external groups,” the school said.

The university is charging Mr. Spencer the allowable costs for rental and security fees, $10,564, and said it plans to spend at least $500,000 of its own on additional security expenses in preparation of likely protests.

The National Policy Institute mailed the school a check Friday covering the requested rental and security costs, Mr. Spencer told The Washington Times. His talk will focus on “why racial identity is necessary,” he told The Times, “and why it’s the ultimate outcome of the historical process over the past century.”

Mr. Spencer, 39, first achieved notoriety last year for his involvement with the alt-right, a budding political movement widely associated with extreme far-right ideologies including white nationalism and racism. He had been scheduled to headline the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville this past summer, but his appearance fell through when the event was canceled amid violent clashes erupting between protesters and participants including white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Mr. Spencer had previously planned to speak at the University of Florida on Sept. 12, but administrators refused his initial request and told him to select a different date.

“Our decision to disallow the September event was based on specific threats and a date that fell soon after the Charlottesville event. Allowing Spencer to speak in October provided additional time to make significant security arrangements,” the school said.

The University of Florida Police Department, Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol and other law-enforcement agencies are being asked to assist with security when the event finally takes place, the school said Thursday.

A Facebook event page for a protest being scheduled in connection with Mr. Spencer’s appearance, “No Nazis at UF,” listed several thousands people planning to attend as of Friday afternoon.

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