Education

We protected campus at white supremacist speech — and we want our money, UF is told

Richard Spencer addresses the media at the Phillips Center in Gainesville on Oct. 19, 2017. The event was Spencer’s first visit to a college campus since the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. Reacting to his appearance, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County.
Richard Spencer addresses the media at the Phillips Center in Gainesville on Oct. 19, 2017. The event was Spencer’s first visit to a college campus since the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. Reacting to his appearance, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County. Miami Herald File

White nationalist Richard Spencer came to the University of Florida in Gainesville to deliver a speech.

Anticipating violence, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County in preparation of the October event.

Security costs topped half a million — $600,000 — to keep the peace.

FHP troopers
Florida Highway Patrol troopers stand ready at the entrance to University of Florida in Gainesville as hundreds of protesters march near the Phillips Center, where Richard Spencer was allowed to speak. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

Three months later, that peace came with an invoice. On Wednesday, Alachua County mailed UF a letter and an invoice for $302,184. The county seeks reimbursement for the cost of public safety resources that were devoted to the Spencer speech.

“We have not received the letter yet and so it’s premature to comment on its contents as of yet,” UF spokesman John Hines told the Miami Herald on Thursday.

The letter and itemized invoice from Commissioner Lee Pinkoson was addressed to UF President Kent Fuchs and dated Jan. 9. The request for payment doesn’t come with a deadline but the county wants its money, the school’s independent Florida Alligator reported.

The invoice has two charges for law enforcement, asking for a total of $260,494. Among other charges, fire-rescue is listed at $19,418 and jail costs are $4,918. The invoice also lists $15,829 for the Alachua County Combined Communication Center services, for 911 overtime pay and rented radios for public safety officers. Court security is listed at $1,425.

“As a result of this decision that UF made to allow this event, we responded,” Mark Sexton, Alachua County’s communications and legislative affairs director, told WUFT News. “And now we’re simply submitting an invoice to get reimbursed for the services we were asked to provide, which we provided.”

protester sings
A man protesting Richard Spencer’s presence on the University of Florida campus faces off and sings in the face of an alt-right supporter near the Phillips Center where Spencer was allowed to speak on Oct. 19, 2017. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

Spencer’s speech was more notable for what wasn’t said from the stage. The alt-right firebrand had to cut his delivery short by some 30 minutes because his supporters were no match for the protesters, who made up a majority of the 456 seats filled out of 700 at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Protesters screamed and chanted “F--- Spencer” and “Black Lives Matter” throughout his speech. At one point, the protesters started a Gator football chant, alternatively yelling “orange” and “blue.”

There were five minor injuries and two arrests — one for a Gainesville man charged with resisting arrest without violence and the other for a media member’s security guard found with a pistol and a knife.

UF also was in the spotlight this week when the school suspended the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity for four years over alleged alcohol, drug use and property damage.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

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