A supporter of a group headed by white nationalist Richard Spencer vowed to file a lawsuit against the University of Florida after the school denied a request to rent space on the campus for an event next month.
Cameron Padgett, a Spencer supporter who was organizing the campus event in Gainesville, said he was going to call his lawyer immediately and start the process of filing a court challenge.
UF President Kent Fuchs wrote in a statement to the campus community that the decision was made after assessing potential risks with campus, community and law enforcement officials following violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.
This is the entire letter from Fuchs:
Aug. 16, 2017
Dear Campus Community:
Amid serious concerns for safety, we have decided to deny the National Policy Institute’s request to rent event space at the University of Florida.
This decision was made after assessing potential risks with campus, community, state and federal law enforcement officials following violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., and continued calls online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: “The Next Battlefield is in Florida.”
I find the racist rhetoric of Richard Spencer and white nationalism repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for.
That said, the University of Florida remains unwaveringly dedicated to free speech and the spirit of public discourse. However, the First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others.
The likelihood of violence and potential injury – not the words or ideas – has caused us to take this action.
W. Kent Fuchs
University of Florida
Spencer was among those arrested at the violent white nationalist rally on the University of Virginia campus. Three people died and about 35 were injured that day.
Fuchs advised students over the weekend the National Policy Institute requested space for Spencer to speak on the UF campus September 12, 2017.
Hours later, Mitch Emerson, an Orlando based political activist, created a Facebook event to organize a counter protest, if the university approved Spencer’s request.
The counter protest, No- Nazis at UF – Protest Richard Spencer, currently shows over 2000 people attending, with 6000 interested in the event.
Emerson partnered with Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida to schedule group calls to the office of President Fuchs.
UF History student Ebony Love , 21, said the fight is not over and the community must stay vigilant.
“While it is okay to breathe, and celebrate now, we must think of the future,” Love said. “How can we create policies that will generate sustainable change? Denying this event today will not prevent the next nationalist from trying the same thing. So while I consider today a victory, I consider it a victory in a battle rather than in the war against hate.”
President of the UF Black Student Union Dwayne Fletcher said he is confident that the courts will take everyone’s safety into consideration, especially in light of the events that occurred in Charlottesville.
UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said, “the tragic demonstration of hate and violence in Charlottesville, has left us all raw and mournful, both for the victims and for American society. We are very concerned about what could happen here at the University of Florida.”
Sikes said the university knew there was a legal risk pending its decision.
“Should the National Policy Institute and Mr. Padgett decide to challenge us, legally, we are prepared to vigorously defend this decision,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.