University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs cited “serious concerns for safety” in an open letter explaining his reason for denying white nationalist Richard Spencer’s request to speak on campus:
This decision was made after assessing potential risks with campus, community, state and federal law enforcement officials following violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., and continued calls online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: “The Next Battlefield is in Florida.”
Fuchs decried Spencer’s “racist rhetoric,” saying that it did not align with the university’s values. He also stated the university is “unwaveringly dedicated to free speech and the spirit of public discourse.”
“The likelihood of violence and potential injury – not the words or ideas – has caused us to take this action,” he concluded.
Following a white nationalist rally at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, white nationalists slated appearances at the University of Florida and Texas A&M University.
Texas A&M University also announced the cancellation of a “White Lives Matter” event, proposed only a day after the violence in Charlottesville.
Prior to the cancellation announcement, University of Florida students and locals planned an event to protest Spencer’s appearance.
The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville quickly devolved into violence between demonstrators and counter-protesters. The violence escalated when James Alex Fields, Jr. allegedly drove his vehicle into a crowd, killing counter-protester Heather Heyer. The events surrounding the rally also led to the deaths of two Virginia state troopers in a helicopter crash.