Why the University of Florida can't prohibit white nationalist event on Thursday

Posted at 8:13 PM, Oct 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-18 06:13:55-04

It’s hard to forget the images of hate and violence that emerged during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., back in August.

Those images are now triggering concern here in Florida as the man who helped organize that rally is set to speak at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“The values of our universities are not shared by Mr. Spencer,” said UF’s president Kent Fuchs in a video statement posted on Facebook.

National Policy Institute’s Richard Spencer hoped to speak at UF in September, but after what happened in Charlottesville, the university cancelled, citing an imminent safety concern.

“Our campuses are places were people from all races, origins and religions are welcome and treated with love,” said Fuchs.

Despite Fuchs making it clear that UF denounces Spencer’s hateful speech, this time the event will go on.

“They are required to permit even obnoxious speech,” said Mark Schneider, the president of the Palm Beach County chapter of the ACLU.

Schneider said this comes down the fact that the University of Florida is a public or government entity and then there's the First Amendment.

“The ACLU would also encourage people not to attend because we don’t support hateful speech ourselves, but we do support the right of people to enunciate hateful speech on public property,” said Schneider. “In this case, it’s public property and the university’s hands are really tied. It can’t do otherwise under the rulings of the Supreme Court.”
Schneider said if the government could regulate speech, history shows us it would suppress speech it finds “inconvenient."