Controversial white nationalist speaker Richard Spencer’s presence on the University of Florida’s campus forced the governor to declare a state of emergency.
But, as thousands of protesters marched towards the Phillips Center, the fear many people said they felt was gone. They chanted a message of love versus hate and non-violence in the face of a white nationalist who said the world would be “beautiful” if he was the leader.
At one point during his news conference ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska asked Spencer why he thought he spoke for all white people wanting an all white society. He wouldn’t answer the question.
“You are just not smart enough sir,” Spencer told us. “Your question is actually dumb, like it really is, so I’m sorry I’d rather talk to this young woman.”
Thousands of protesters told us everything that Spencer stands for is dumb. Everyone we spoke to was disgusted that Spencer’s camp controlled who received the 700 tickets made available for his speaking event. At his news conference Spencer said everyone was welcome.
“That I have said that we will only allow my extremist supporters into the audience; I have said the exact opposite of that on multiple occasions to many reporters,” Spencer said.
ABC Action News witnessed first hand as people were turned away for tattoos, having canes, or because as one woman described the organizers got a “feeling” from her.
“It looks like another lie by Richard Spencer,” Seth Smith said. “Why is it that we will succumb to white nationalists? The actual people that my grandfather fought when he was actually going through war. This is disrespectful and disgusting. I’m born and raised in this city and I’m not allowed to be in certain parts of it because white nationalists have taken it over. It’s disgusting.”
During Spencer’s speech the crowd heckled and booed Spencer, telling him to"go home” and "Nazis are not welcome here.”
Spencer responded, "I'm not going home, I will stand here all day if I have to."
Spencer did finally go home and so did the thousands of protesters and hundreds of law enforcement tasked with protecting the public. Through searing heat and rain showers they stood guard making sure no one was hurt. One man wearing a shirt with swastikas on it was punched in the face after walking into the middle of the crowd of anti-Spencer protesters.
Two people were arrested during the event. One was hired security carrying a concealed weapon on campus, the other was arrested for resisting an officer without violence.