Gov. Rick Scott is defending his decision to declare a state of emergency in Alachua County in advance of Thursday’s speech that white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give on the campus of the University of Florida.
Scott made the declaration after consulting with Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.
“I have stayed in touch with the sheriff, the school and others in Alachua County,” Scott said Tuesday morning. “The sheriff asked me to do an emergency order to make sure we had all the resources that might be needed to make sure the event that happens Thursday goes without a hitch.”
In his emergency order, Scott says a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County.
Spencer suggested the emergency declaration was issued in order to block his speech at U.F.
A claim Scott denies.
“Absolutely not,” Scott insisted on Tuesday. “I believe in the First Amendment rights that people have. I do expect people to be safe. I won’t condone any violence. I’m going to continue to work with law enforcement to make sure all Floridians are safe.”
Darnell said Scott’s executive order is intended to ensure that her office has the resources and equipment to deal with the possible outbreak of violence at Thursday’s event.
Spencer was involved in the white nationalist rally held in August in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which a counter-protester was killed when the rally turned violent. His scheduled speech in Gainesville has already resulted in protests in that university community.
School officials rejected a request made by Spencer and his National Policy Institute for an appearance at U.F. last month due to what happened in Virginia. School leaders agreed to accommodate Spencer after he threatened to sue.
As part of his decision to declare an emergency order, the governor has also activated the Florida National Guard to help with security in the event it’s needed.
The university has said it expects to spend $500,000 on security for Spencer’s speech.