When Hurricane Irma was bearing down on Florida last month, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency. On Monday, he did the same thing in Alachua County, ahead of a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
“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. “This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe.”
“I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent,” Scott declared in his executive order, noting that Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell had requested the state’s assistance. The order will make it easier for various agencies to coordinate a security plan for Thursday’s speech at the university.
The school had denied an earlier request from Spencer to speak in September, citing imminent threats against Gainesville and the university following the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Spencer was a headliner at the “Unite the Right” rally there that spurred clashes between white supremacists and protesters, leaving dozens injured. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man drove his car into a group of protesters.