University of Florida students protested against white nationalist speaker, Richard Spencer, by gathering in front of the Curtis M. Phillips Center for at UF this past Thursday, Oct. 19.
Hundreds of students came in hopes of shutting down the speech given by Spencer, who visited the university in order to preach about his beliefs on white supremacy, not equality among the races. Even though UF initially denied NPI, the National Policy Institute, to speak, Spencer was protected by his First Amendment right to publicly address the message on campus. UF had no choice but to allow the speech to continue.
The streets surrounding the Phillips Center were flooded with Florida Gators with signs that expressed messages such as “Not ALT-right, ALT-wrong” and “No Nazis”. Protesters also screamed chants such as “Go Home Nazis” and “Black Lives Matter,” Almost every Florida Gator who came to protest clearly addressed their disapproval of Spencer.
Elisabeth Brooke, a 19-year-old sophomore at UF got the chance to enter the Phillips Center to hear Spencer speak. According to Brooke, only a small portion of the audience were Spencer supporters. “It was absolutely crazy. Everybody who wasn’t for him was shouting and telling him to leave and go home,” Brooke said. She explained that regardless of race, gender and religion, everyone is in this together. She also expressed that she personally does not stand for what Spencer believes in and that she was proud of all the people who came out in support of equal rights. “Historically Black and Brown people have been at the front lines, and here we are again, and we’re killing it,” Brooke added.
Even 2011 UF graduate Matthew Cugini, 28, came back in support of his college. Wearing a “Love is Strong” shirt, Cugini said, “I was told to stay home. but I think it’s important to demonstrate that we’re not going to allow people like this to just walk on our campus and say what they want and let it go unnoticed.” He also voiced that the numbers of people who came to protest clearly outnumbered the white supremacists and NPI does not speak for the majority of people.
University of Florida President, Kent Fuchs, sent out an email to all UF students Oct.10, more than a week before the Spencer speech, giving students a heads up of what to expect during the visit and to not support his cause at all costs. In the email, Fuchs stated, “I ask that you not let Mr. Spencer’s message of hate and racism go unchallenged. Speak up for your values and the values of our university . . . those of us in the majority must speak up for those in the minority and make our voice of love and support heard.”
The Gainesville community stood together as one and put up a fight against racism and discrimination. They claim to have won this one, and they are ready to stand together again for anything the future may hold that challenges equal rights and freedom of all people.