Florida Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Richard Spencer's Visit to Gainesville

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White nationalist Richard Spencer speaks to select media in his office in Alexandria, Virginia, on August 14. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

White nationalist Richard Spencer, whose divisive rhetoric about immigrants, minorities and women has been denounced vociferously by civil rights groups, is speaking at a University of Florida campus on Thursday, and the state is working hard to avoid a melee from erupting.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency Monday ahead of Spencer's appearance in city of Gainesville, where the campus is situated.

"We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion; however, we have zero tolerance for violence, and public safety is always our number one priority," said Scott about the order in a statement, which was issued following a request made by Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell. "I have been in constant contact with Sheriff Darnell, who has requested this executive order to ensure that county and local law enforcement have every needed resource."

Scott says the order is a precautionary measure. "This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe," he explained in the release.

Prior Spencer appearances in states like Virginia and Texas "have sparked protests and counterprotests resulting in episodes of violence, civil unrest and multiple arrests," according to Scott.

On August 12, at the site of another college campus, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Spencer was among one of the scheduled speakers for a white nationalist event that never really got off the ground after a white man who allegedly voiced sympathy for Nazism rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing anti-racist activist Heather Heyer. The incident sparked a nationwide debate about free speech.

Newsweek spoke to Spencer about his tactics, which activists have compared to "terrorism," and his recruiting techniques, which primarily target disaffected white men. Referring to his mistrust of democracy, he questioned whether women should have a right to vote.

"I don't necessarily think that that's a great thing," Spencer said of women voting in U.S. elections.