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.
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.