Texas men shouting Nazi slogans arrested after shooting at car in Gainesville

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Tyler Tenbrink

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Colton Fears

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William Fears

Authorities in Florida breathed a sigh of relief after white nationalist Richard Spencer’s speech in Gainesville went off with just minor hiccups on Thursday.

The University of Florida avoided the types of confrontations on other campuses that prompted Gov. Rick Scott to issue a state of emergency in Alachua County earlier this month.

A $600,000 security effort resulted in “a mostly peaceful day” in Hogtown, according to a joint press release issued by various law enforcement agencies involved.

According to the press release, the speech resulted in “minimal acts of violence” and two arrests.

But those arrests didn’t include an ugly off-campus confrontation that wound up with three Texas men, two of them brothers, behind bars.

According to a Gainesville Police Department report issued this morning, the Texans — aged 28 to 30 — a violent argument, which took place shortly after Spencer’s speech ended, resulted in gunfire.

Tyler Tenbrink, 28, of Richmond, Texas; William Fears, 30, and his brother, 28-year-old Colton Fears, both of Passadena, Texas, are all currently in the Alachua County Jail on charges of attempted homicide. Tenbrink is a convicted felon and faces additional charges of possession of a firearm by convicted felon. The Fears brothers are being held on $1 million bond, and Tenbrink is on $3 million bond.

At least two of the three have shown connections to extremist groups, according to a press release issued by the GPD this morning.

Here’s what went down, according to the release:

Shortly before 5:30pm, it was reported that a silver Jeep stopped to argue with a group of protesters and began threatening, offering Nazi salutes and shouting chants about Hitler to the group that was near the bus stop. During the altercation, Tenbrink produced a handgun while the Fears brothers encouraged him to shoot at the victims. Tenbrink fired a single shot at the group which thankfully missed the group and struck a nearby building. The suspects then fled in a silver jeep.
One of the victims amazingly remained calm and was able to get the vehicle tag number and reported it immediately to law enforcement. Due to the Richard Spencer event, law enforcement resources from the local, state and Federal level were still operating in “Unified Command” which allowed local investigators and FBI analysts to quickly identify the vehicle and possible occupants. This information was immediately relayed to area law enforcement to look for the vehicle.

The Texans were nabbed later Thursday night on I-75 by an Alachua County deputy — with help from local police — on his way home from the Spencer event.

GPD spokesman Ben Tobias praised both the victim and the LEO handling of the situation.

“I am amazed that immediately after being shot at, a victim had the forethought to get the vehicle’s license number” Tobias said. “That key piece of information allowed officials from every level of multiple agencies to quickly identify and arrest these persons. This was an amazing team effort by everyone involved.”

Darnell said the incident and quick response “displays the true teamwork that went into yesterday’s Unified Command Center activation.”

“Information was quickly gathered and disseminated to all law enforcement partners involved and a potentially dangerous situation was averted quickly with the arrests,” she said.

UF Prez Fuchs: “Racist” Spencer “failed miserably”

20171019_161721(0)(1)Late last night, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs penned an op-ed for the school’s newspaper, The Alligator, declaring that white nationalist Richard Spencer “failed miserably to divide our community.”

Spencer was shouted down throughout his speech at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where those who disagreed with his identity politics vastly outnumbered his supporters.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County early in the week, and hundreds of law enforcement from around the state patrolled the campus yesterday. Security costs were estimated to be $600,000.

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Scott, Fuchs and county Sheriff Sadie Darnell were among those who feared a reprisal of violent clashes where Spencer has previously appeared, such as a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August. Spencer supporters carried tiki torches and chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”Heather Heyer was killed and dozens were injured after a car plowed into a group of counter-protestors.

But the anxiety leading up to the Gainesville event might have been higher than the tension on Thursday. A man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Nazi swastikas was punched. Two other men were arrested for non-violent offenses.

Fuchs praised how the university dealt with what he called Spencer’s message of hate.

“The whole world was watching, and the whole world saw how we responded to a hateful and despicable bully,” the university president wrote.

He also discussed why the university couldn’t ban Spencer from speaking, as many students and faculty members urged, or charge him the full $600,000 tab for security. (Spoiler alert: It’s because of a legal doctrine known as the “heckler’s veto”).

Fuchs also advised students to abandon the old-school protest methods that seemed to work pretty well yesterday.

“I argue old strategies of protest, which include shutting down Spencer and chasing his followers out of town, are exactly what white supremacists need to attract attention and followers.  For Spencer and his ilk, I believe the right strategy is to 1) shun the speaker, his followers and his events, and 2) as loud as possible, speak up with acts of inclusion and love and messages rejecting racism and white nationalism,” he wrote.

Read Fuchs’s full piece here.

White nationalist: I’m not a poo-poo head!

20171019_090816Richard Spencer, the controversial white nationalist who’s sparked a state of emergency and turned Hogtown into a powderkeg, says he doesn’t promote violence and isn’t a white supremacist.

Spencer, who coined the term “alternative right” years ago, is coming to the University of Florida this afternoon as another stop on a national recruitment effort targeting college students.

The National Policy Institute, which Spencer founded and leads, paid about $10,000 to rent the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The university first balked at Spencer’s appearance, but relented after deciding it would probably lose a lawsuit threatened by Spencer’s lawyer.

The university estimates costs for Spencer’s speech will be in the $500,000 range, further angering students, faculty and others who want the alt-right sensation to stay the heck away.

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We spoke with Spencer’s chief lieutenant, Evan McLaren, this week.

“There’s nothing hateful about what Richard or myself or the National Policy Institute expresses,” McLaren said.

McLaren, the executive director of D.C.-based NPI, told us the first business purchase he made after going to work for Spencer this summer was a ballistics vest.

Read the full story here.

And here’s what Spencer had to say in a recent interview with the Culture Report.

Spencer denied that he’s a white supremacist, which he defined as “a white person who wants to rule over other races.”

“And I don’t want to do that,” so he’s not a white supremacist, Spencer said.

“White supremacist is basically a scare word. You might as well call me a poo-poo head or some other middle school-level insult. Because that’s all it is. It’s a way of suppressing speech. It’s a way of silencing someone even before the conversation begins, actually. So, yes, I get it a lot. It’s obvious bullshit. It’s the same thing as when a conservative would say, ‘he’s a communist,’ or ‘he’s a Marxist.’ Well, maybe that’s true in many cases. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have something to offer,” he explained.

So, what is he?

“If I were to describe my ideology, my identity, it would be identitarian…It basically means that that question of identity is at the very heart of how I think of the world,” he said.

Are whites superior?

“The easiest thing for me to say would be, oh no, of course not. But look, of course, I would say, for me, yes. Speaking from my perspective, yes, I want to live in a white country,” he said, adding that he feels more at home in European countries than Asian or Hispanic nations.

“Every people thinks of itself as a chosen people on some level. As unique and special. Obviously Jews have taken that to the next level with their sense of chosenness,” he added.

Whites aren’t superior “from an objective, scientific sense,” Spencer said. Africans are better at “running and sprinting” and East Asians have higher IQs, he said.

“The key issue is really not superiority. It’s difference. I don’t want to lose that coherence to the white race,” he concluded.

But the Anti-Defamation League doesn’t buy Spencer’s insistence that’s he’s not a hate-monger and he’s not inciting violence.

“The fact is that Richard Spencer and his cohorts are white supremacists and their ultimate goal is to have a white ethno-state, and that’s based on the idea that different races should live separately. They’re very much opposed to diversity,” Marilyn Mayo, a director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told us this week. “They promote both racist and anti-Semitic ideas. Their message definitely is not a message of unity, but it is a hateful message.”

20171019_090854Regarding the clashes that have erupted at some of his speeches, Mayo said that Spencer doesn’t promote violence.

“They don’t have a history of promoting violence, but it’s clear that the ideas that they’re promoting are based on hateful views,” she said.

Both Spencer’s supporters and counter-protestors have come to the events prepared to engage in battle, Mayo noted.

“I think that Spencer himself has not promoted violence. But he has also brought white supremacists to these events who are there to protect him, and those people have a tendency towards violence,” she said.

 

 

White nationalist speech at UF: Should I stay or should I go?

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and University of Florida President Kent Fuchs are urging students, faculty and others to shun firebrand white nationalist Richard Spencer, who’s speaking at the college tomorrow.

But Florida Democrats issued a press release this morning saying they support peaceful protestors and it’s incumbent on those who disagree with Spencer to speak out.

“The Florida Democratic Party reiterates its support for all peaceful protesters who are standing up and speaking out,” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel said in the release. “We have a moral obligation to refute hate and bigotry whenever they present themselves. White supremacy is an evil we cannot ignore. When leaders like our governor fail to challenge the President for embracing white supremacists, it becomes all the more urgent that the rest of us speak out—clearly, unequivocally, and loudly. We must let it be known that we reject hatred in all its forms.”
Responding to a request by Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency for the county. The executive order allows for coordination between state and local law enforcement agencies. Darnell said her request wasn’t based on any heightened security risks, but was a preventative measure.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting this morning, Bondi said she was praying “nothing happens” and urged students not to go to the event, while saying “there is no place for espousing these horrible, horrible views.”

Bondi said law enforcement will be well-prepared.

But, she added, “There is just no place right now for this, but you know with free speech, if he’s going to get up there and do it, then he’s going to do it. But we are going to make sure that our students and our citizens are protected.”

Spencer, the head of the National Policy Institute, was among the speakers at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly when a car plowed into a group of counter-protestors. Heather Heyer was killed and dozens of others were injured.
Clashes between Spencer supporters, some of whom are white supremacists and others who back his white separatist ideology, and “Antifa,” or anti-fascist, groups have taken place on other campuses where Spencer has spoken.

Alt-right speech in Hogtown: “It’s just words”

Tension continues to build in advance of alt-right activist Richard Spencer’s appearance at the University of Florida Thursday,.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting this morning, Attorney General Pam Bondi said “there is no place for espousing these horrible, horrible views.”

Yesterday, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County. County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said she requested the emergency declaration so she could make sure she had the necessary resources, just in case.

Spencer was one of the key organizers of an August “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly when a car plowed into a group of counter-protestors. Heather Heyer, 31, was killed, and dozens were injured.

Appearances by Spencer in other college towns also sparked melees, causing concern by state and local officials who fear similar clashes in Hogtown.

Bondi defended Scott’s emergency declaration when asked if it might worsen an already tense situation.

“This guy’s out there espousing violence and hatred and anger and if we know that he’s going to be doing that, it’s our duty as a state … to have the resources available up front,” she said.

Spencer supporters point the finger at counter-protestors, who’ve pledged to show up en masse on Thursday, as the reason for the precautions.

Cameron Padgett, a Georgia State University student who helped organize Spencer’s speech in Gainesville, posted a video on Twitter yesterday, with an update about how to get tickets for the event at UF’s Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

The center was originally supposed to distribute the tickets for the 2:30 speech, Padgett said.

But organizers quashed that after learning that tickets could have been turned in for free drinks, or even money, Padgett said in the video.

“It almost seems to me that people don’t want to hear Richard Spencer speak. You know, they’re just words. We’re not even there yet, in Gainesville, at all and they’re already enacting a state of emergency based on protestors already there,” Padgett said. “What’s the state of emergency being enacted on? It’s the protestors that are there at the event, or at the venue right now. So we’re there to peacefully show up and speak, you know, words only, and if you want to debate and engage in a conversation, then I welcome everybody to be there. I think it will be a good event. I have full faith in the police to do whatever they need to do to make sure that the speech is delivered properly and safely.”

All Aboard! Derailment fuels train wars

A Treasure Coast derailment in February that was kept hidden from state lawmakers is fueling the battle over All Aboard Florida‘s “Brightline” passenger train.

Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) issued a press release yesterday regarding the derailment, which happened during a test run in February and resulted in more than $400,000 in damage.

The passenger line will connect Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, with service to Orlando eventually.

According to the press release, the derailment was confirmed by the Federal Railroad Administration. The derailment came days before All Aboard Florida officials testified before a state committee.

“Soon after this incident, AAF officials attended not one but two state legislative hearings about rail safety and never once disclosed facts about the derailment, while they sought to table the safety legislation under consideration,” Brent Hanlon, Chairman of CARE FL, said in the release.

Here’s more from CARE FL’s release:

Since CARE FL’s inception it has served as a watchdog in the Treasure Coast region, shining a light on AAF’s less-than-transparent approach to building this ill-conceived and dangerous rail project.

A May 30, 2017 letter from CARE FL’s legal team notified the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FRA about the incident, inquiring whether AAF filed the proper notifications within the appropriate time frame, and requesting that DOT/FRA publicly address whether the derailment occurred, so that our community would know the facts.

“It is unfortunate that Martin County is forced to spend taxpayer money to make sure our safety concerns are addressed at the state and federal levels. A simple confirmation of a derailment took three months to get from DOT, but six months after the derailment itself. We would have never known about this significant public safety issue had we not demanded to know the facts,” said Ruth Holmes, Senior Assistant Martin County Attorney.

According to the FRA’s response letter dated August 21, 2017, “a Brightline locomotive derailed its trailing truck while negotiating a switch at four miles per hour within the Brightline yard facility.” The letter also states that Brightline and FEC “promptly” notified FRA officials of the February 11, 2017 incident.

Hanlon commented, “All you have to do is look at numerous opportunities they had to share this important and relevant information.”

February 11, 2017 – date of derailment according to FRA letter
February 22, 2017 – Florida House Workshop on High Speed Passenger Rail. Myles Tobin, General Counsel of AAF testifies but fails to mention the derailment of train.
March 2017 – CARE FL receives information from knowledgeable rail source that derailment occurred. CARE FL searches for but is unable to find a derailment report. FRA safety staff is unaware of the incident.
March 12, 2017 – Florida Senate Transportation Committee hearing on High Speed Passenger Rail Safety legislation. AAF Vice President Rusty Roberts testifies and, again, fails to mention derailment.
April 4, 2017 – Michael Reininger, then President of Brightline, authors opinion editorial, “All Aboard Florida goes extra mile to address rail safety,” touting AAF going the extra mile to address rail safety. Again, no discussion of the incident.

CARE FL, Martin County and Indian River County have repeatedly expressed their public safety concerns and have worked diligently to address ways to keep the residents of the Treasure Coast community out of harm’s way.

“The disconnect between the derailment and AAF’s failure to make it public is disturbing,” said Dylan Reingold, Indian River County Attorney. “The safety and well- being of our communities require greater transparency.”

The FRA also pledged to “continue to provide oversight of this railroad, as it has from its inception, to ensure that the operation meets or exceeds the safety requirements set by Federal regulations.”

We will hold the FRA to that commitment.

Baez: “You’re my army!”

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State Rep. Daisy Baez, under investigation by a House committee, is using her military experience to raise money for a re-election campaign.

The picture above accompanied a fundraising email sent out by the campaign of Baez, a Miami Democrat.

As a soldier I wore this nation’s uniform to give my life for the cause of freedom, justice, and democracy. Soldiers never give up, and I will never waver on my commitment to continue fighting for you.

You’re my army, and I need you to join this battle today with your support and contributions. Will you contribute $50, $25, or any other amount today?

A state House committee Tuesday found “probable cause” to proceed with an investigation of whether Baez violated residency requirements when she was elected to her Miami-Dade County seat in 2016.

After hearing an investigative report that alleged Baez used residences outside House District 114 for a homestead exemption, a driver’s license and voter registration, the Select Committee on Member Conduct voted to move the investigation forward to the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, which will likely conduct a broader inquiry into the allegations.

Baez, a Democrat in her first term, attended the meeting but did not testify, although she said she has not violated the requirement that she live in District 114 at the time of her election and subsequently as she represents the area.

“I just want to reiterate that I believe I am a resident and I have evidence to support that I am a resident of District 114,” she said, adding she would cooperate with the investigation so it can be resolved “in an expedient way.”