Ahead of Richard Spencer’s speech at UF on Oct. 19, two legal advocacy organizations wrote to University Police on Tuesday claiming the event’s prohibited items policy is “unconstitutional.”
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and Florida Legal Services wrote in a joint letter to UPD that the rights of people who want to protest Spencer were being restricted by UF’s rules. Florida Legal Service’s staff attorney Andrea Costello said UPD didn’t provide a geographical boundary for prohibited item restrictions and was vague about law enforcement’s discretion to confiscate commonly carried items like umbrellas and water bottles.
“Without any guidelines, law enforcement is free to pick and choose based on the content of people's speech and how they are expressing it which items they can take,” Costello said. “That’s a big constitutional problem.”
Costello said UF and law officials shouldn’t tell people to stay home and avoid the event. People have a constitutional right to attend and protest, she said.
“We are supporting the right of people who want to protest against Richard Spencer,” Costello said. “(Richard Spencer) represents a form of fascism and white supremacy and both of those things are very dangerous to our democracy.”
UF spokesperson Janine Sikes said the university is reviewing the letter sent by the two organizations. UPD will mark the areas of the event, Sikes wrote in a statement.
“Please know that prohibited items areas for this event will be clearly marked, similar to other events on campus, such as sporting events,” she said.
Hours after UF made that statement, UF Public Affairs sent an email to all students about security for the event with a map detailing the area prohibited items that are not allowed.
The area includes Bledsoe Drive, Surge Area Drive and parts of Hull Road, which will be closed for the event, according to the email. RTS busses that run on these roads have alternative routes or will not run. Routes 117, 118, 119 and 125 will close, while 20, 21, 28 and 33 will be detoured to Radio Road.
The Cultural Plaza parking lots and garage will also be closed that day, according to the email.
The Florida Museum of Natural History, Harn Museum of Art, Southwest Recreation Center and Steinmetz Hall will be closed, according to UF’s website on free speech that was launched for the event. The Counseling and Wellness Center will also close but its Peabody Hall satellite office will remain open.
In the email to students, UF Public Safety warned students to carry their Gator 1 Card from Oct. 18 to Oct. 20 because some buildings on campus will require a UFID for access, including Newell Hall, Housing and Residence Education buildings, and the Reitz Student Union.
UF and the law enforcement agencies involved have spent over $600,000 on security measures, President Kent Fuchs said at a forum on Wednesday.
“UF Police along with local, state and federal agencies have developed robust security plans aimed at stopping potential disturbances before they start,” according to UF’s email to students.