Hundreds of police will be deployed at the University of Florida on Thursday as thousands are poised to protest a speech by an avowed white nationalist, an event that prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency in preparation for possible violence.
Richard Spencer’s speech at the university in Gainesville comes about two months after rallies by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to violent clashes with counter-protesters and killed at least one person. The flare-up challenged U.S. President Donald Trump and stoked a smoldering national debate on race.
Spencer, who heads the National Policy Institute, is scheduled to speak from 2:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) at a performing arts center. The university said no one at the university invited him to speak and it was obligated under law to allow the event.
The National Policy Institute is vetting which reporters it will allow inside to cover the speech, university officials said.
The Orlando Sentinel newspaper quoted Spencer as saying the emergency declaration issued this week was “flattering” but “most likely overkill.”
About 3,000 people have signed up on a Facebook page to say they will be attending a protest rally called “No Nazis at UF,” which will be held outside the venue where Spencer is speaking.