Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday ahead of a scheduled speech at the University of Florida by white nationalist leader Richard Spencer.
The state of emergency for Florida’s Alachua County comes three days before controversial white supremacist Spencer is scheduled to speak at the school in Gainesville on Thursday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The Republican governor warned in an executive order “that the threat of potential emergency is imminent,” and that recent events involving Spencer often led to “civil unrest.”
Spencer, often referred to as one of the founders of the “alt-right” movement, was in attendance at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in August in which 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and two Virginia state troopers were killed.
And a string of riots broke out at the University of California, Berkeley earlier this year, the first one in February as Milo Yiannopoulos, then a Breitbart editor, was set to speak. Left-wing protesters hurled smoke bombs and sparked a large fire on campus.
The emergency declaration — requested by Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell — allows state agencies to suspend rules and regulations, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Scott also activated gubernatorial authority to spend surplus money when he deems it necessary.
“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,” Scott said in a press release Monday.
The University of Florida announced earlier this month that it expects to spend $500,000 on security costs for the event.
Students, employees and community members took to the university’s administration building Monday afternoon to contest the decision to host Spencer as a speaker, Gainesville.com reported. More than 300 people signed a petition urging school leaders to cancel the event.
This is the second attempt by Spencer to speak on the University of Florida Gainesville campus, after his initial request was rejected by the school, which cited safety concerns for the decision.