Richard Spencer speech at University of Florida becomes shouting match

By Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Oct. 19, 2017 at 8:12 PM
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Oct. 19 (UPI) -- A speech by Richard Spencer at the University of Florida devolved into a shouting match as crowds of protesters shouted down the white supremacist Thursday.

Thousands of people, including non-students, attended Spencer's appearance at the school in an effort to make his group of supporters seem small by comparison. UF Public Safety said more than 2,500 demonstrators attended the event.

"The joint co-ordination and careful planning by multiple law enforcement agencies led to a mostly peaceful day, with minimal acts of violence and only two arrests," the department said.

Inside the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where Spencer spoke in Gainesville, Fla., people shouted "Go home, Richard Spencer" and "We don't want your Nazi hate," while others called him a terrorist.

Spencer shouted back, calling his opposers "grunting morons."

Some of the protesters traveled from far away, like Will Fears of Texas.

"He's trying to make it, normalize the idea for white people to have an identity, to advocate for their own interests and to advocate for our own existence," Fears told NBC News.

On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County, where the school is located, out of fear of a reprisal of violence seen at a rally attended by white nationalists in Charlottesville, N.C.

"We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion, however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority," Scott said in a statement.

Spencer's speech came on the same day former President George W. Bush gave a speech denouncing white supremacy, saying it is the antithesis of what it means to be American.

"Our identity as a nation -- unlike many other nations -- is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood," Bush said. "This means that people of every race, religion and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed."

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