Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County on Monday ahead of expected protests around a speech by prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida.
Spencer, the president of the white nationalist group National Policy Institute, is expected to deliver his views on Thursday afternoon at the university, and officials are wary that the incident could turn violent.
Spencer said in a phone interview with CNN that he was “flattered” by the state of emergency declaration.
“I’m up there with hurricanes and invading armies and zombie apocalypses,” he said, laughing. “I think that’s the best way to look at it.”
But he added that he thought the declaration was “overkill” and worried it would be used to shut down the event.
“The fact is, if the police simply do their job, my speech and the whole event will go off wonderfully,” he said.
Previous speeches from Spencer on college campuses have sparked protests, including at Auburn University in April and Texas A&M in December.
He also led a group of supporters carrying torches in May in Charlottesville, Virginia, in a display that critics said evoked images of the Ku Klux Klan. The display preceded the violent protests in August in Charlottesville, during which a car slammed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman. The driver was arrested and faces second-degree murder charges.
Spencer said Tuesday that the protests at Auburn and Texas A&M were limited to “some mild violence” because police did their jobs. He said the state of emergency declaration in Florida might be used as a justification to cancel his speech, as happened in Charlottesville in August.
“I don’t think Florida is going to become Charlottesville in the sense that chaos will ensue, but there is a small possibility they might use this state of emergency as justification to end the event,” he said.
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SOURCE: CNN, Eric Levenson