White supremacist Richard Spencer shouted down at Florida university speech | News | DW | 20.10.2017
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White supremacist Richard Spencer shouted down at Florida university speech

Anti-Nazi chants and boos from protesters drowned out a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida. Fearing violence, the US state's governor had previously declared a state of emergency.

Hundreds of counter demonstrators gathered at the University of Florida on Thursday to protest a speech by white supremacist Richard Spencer.

With chants including "Go home Nazis" and "Not in our town! Not in our state! We don't want your Nazi hate!" protesters drowned out Spencer during his speech, frustrating the "alt-right" movement leader.

He ended his two-hour event 30 minutes early after demonstrators inside the university venue continued to chant over his speech, reported local newspaper Gainesville Sun.

Read moreWhite supremacy and neo-Nazis in the US - what you need to know

"You're trying to shut down the speech of a dissident intellectual," said Spencer, who heads the National Policy Institute, a nationalist think tank which has also been classed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"We are stronger than you and you all know it!" he said. Around 15 people who identified as "alt-right" supporters were also present in the event.

The university in Gainesville, Florida said it did not invite Spencer to speak, saying he rented the campus performing arts center for around $10,000 (€8,449). The school initially rejected Spencer's request to speak but later relented on free speech grounds.

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Heightened security

Around three or four skirmishes broke out outside the venue after Spencer supporters confronted the crowds of counter demonstrators.

Five people sustained minor injuries and were immediately treated by fire rescue teams, authorities said.

One man wearing a shirt with several swastikas on it was punched in the face by a protester and later left the area with a bloody lip. Another Spencer supporter wore a Nazi Germany SS pin on his shirt.

Read moreWhat are the links between US and German neo-Nazis?

A man wearing a shirt with swastikas on it is punched by an unidentified member of the crowd in Gainesville, Florida (Getty Images/B. Blanco)

A man wearing a shirt with several swastikas was hit by an unidentified member of the crowd

"There were a few scuffles, but for the most part it was an extremely peaceful event," said Chris Sims, a spokesman for the Alachua County sheriff's office.

Two people were arrested, one of whom was charged with bringing a firearm on to school property. Police later said the man had been hired by a media organization as security.

The university estimated that it spent over $500,000 to enhance security both on campus and in the city of Gainesville. Concerns over possible violence led Florida Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency ahead of the event.

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In August, Spencer and his supporters participated in a rally alongside other neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The protest over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee sparked several violent clashes and led to one woman's death when a Nazi sympathizer drove his car into a crowd of counter demonstrators.

Read moreThree things that make the violence by the extreme right in Charlottesville unique

University of Florida President W Kent Fuchs rejected Spencer on Twitter, saying he supports those "who reject and condemn Spencer's vile and despicable message."

He also accused white nationalists of purposefully sparking protests with their events in order to portray themselves as victims.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said Spencer is "a radical white separatist whose goal is the establishment of a white ethno-state in North America."

rs/jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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