Florida has more than its fair share of disasters requiring the declaration of a state of emergency. The majority have to do with Mother Nature bringing the hammer down, such as we saw once again during this year’s hurricane season. The latest one coming from Governor Rick Scott, however, involves a different sort of storm. This potential “disaster” is a storm of controversy over an upcoming speaking event at the University of Florida. Richard Spencer, of Charlottesville fame, is coming there to deliver remarks and the governor is literally calling out the National Guard. (Associated Press)
Citing past clashes and protests, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency in advance of a speech white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give at the University of Florida.
The state’s Republican governor warned in an executive order Monday that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, in north Florida. Spencer is slated to speak at the campus on Thursday and his pending appearance has already sparked protests in the university town.
Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August.
Scott’s executive order will allow local law-enforcement authorities to partner with state and other law-enforcement agencies to provide security for the event. The university has already said it expects to spend $500,000 on security.
The National Guard isn’t being dispatched to the campus at this point. (At least not yet.) They’re being “mobilized” so that they will be ready to head in on a moment’s notice if the university requests the help. Campus and municipal police are, no doubt, already on high alert and bracing for a lot of overtime pay to hit their budgets.
So we have yet another speaking event with a half million dollar security price tag. This is a situation where the true shame is that such measures had to be considered at all, and I actually have some sympathy for the governor on this one. There are essentially two possibilities for how this plays out and I’m sure Rick Scott has been thinking them over. The event could come off as calmly as the free speech rally in Boston earlier this year, where massive security kept protesters away from the group organizing the rally and the whole thing went off without a hitch. Or, it could turn into another Charlottesville, with mayhem, injury and possibly even death in store. In that regard, Scott’s decision was a fairly easy call.
But why did it have to come to this in the first place? We seem to have collectively lost our minds over these speaking events. I have pretty much no use for Spencer’s views on societal structure or his desire to create, “a White Ethno-State on the North American continent.” But at the same time, I will vigorously defend his right to express his views on the public soapbox. The thing is, nobody is forcing anyone to listen to him. The University could have accepted the initial proposal to allow him to speak, set up a space for his “fans” to listen, and pretty much everyone else could have gone about their business and ignored him. That would have cost virtually nothing and eliminated the chance of violence.
What is the threat presented by having Spencer show up? Are we really such a collection of weak-kneed slackers that hearing some divisive rhetoric will suddenly convert us to the cause and lead everyone to go purchase new bedsheets to make robes out of? Are liberals in particular frightened that hearing Ben Shapiro or some other conservative talk about tax reform for thirty minutes will cause most of their ranks to experience some sort of neural meltdown and run out to buy NRA memberships?
By showing up in droves, setting fire to cars and getting into shoving matches with “opponents” in the social divide, you only deliver more power to the individual or group that you are protesting. If you don’t want Richard Spencer to have more influence, reduce the demand for his services. Divisive speech, while protected by the government, can be marginalized by the public through the simple act of ignoring it. It’s really not all that difficult to grasp, folks.