Florida state of emergency declared for white nationalist speech at UF

Usually, it's issued for things like Hurricanes... so why is Rick Scott ordering a state of emergency for a white-supremacist rally?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is declaring a state of emergency in advance of a speech white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give at the University of Florida.
 
Scott warned in an executive order Monday that a "threat of a potential emergency is imminent" in Alachua County, in north Florida. Spencer is slated to speak at the campus on Thursday.
 
Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August.
 
Scott's executive order will allow local law-enforcement authorities to partner with state and other law-enforcement agencies to provide security for the event. The university has already said it expects to spend $500,000 on security.
 
The governor is also activating the Florida National Guard to help with security if it is needed. In statements published by UF, the state of emergency was requested by the Alachua sheriff and was not made in response to a "heightened security threat."
 
State of Emergency laws in Florida allow this type of order to be issued for potential civil disasters that are beyond a local government's control. 
 
Scott's order said state surplus and unappropriated funds will be available to Alachua County to protect "public safety... and public and private property." 
 
In August, UF attempted to cancel Spencer's speech for promoting hate and inciting violence based on brutal protests in Charlottesville and other campuses. After Spencer threatened a lawsuit for the cancellation, UF released a statement that as a public university it could not violate the First Amendment based on the speech's controversial content. 
 
Attorney Rod Sullivan explained speech on general topics cannot be prohibited by the government unless it orders immediate violence. 
 
"As a speaker, [you're not] responsible for the violence of counter-protestors you're not even responsible for the violence created by your own protesters," Sullivan said. "When you speak in theoretical terms or policy terms, those do not imminently incite people to violence, therefore it's still protected by the First Amendment."
 
Sullivan said while restrictions can be placed on the time, location and platform for the speech, the content may not be limited.
 
"The very touchstone of the First Amendment is not only that it protects the speech that we like, but [also] the speech we hate," said Sullivan. "That's the basic principle behind the First Amendment."
 
Counter protests on the UF president's office occurred Monday led by student-based group No Nazi UF. The group has pledged to march on Thursday in opposition to Spencer's arrival. 
 

© 2017 Associated Press


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