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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Spencer speech derailed, drowned out by booing crowd

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Heather Monae Jackson wants Richard Spencer to know she is not afraid.

The UF international business master’s student said she has encountered racism before in her hometown of Polk County.

Jackson, 22, got the emails from UF President Kent Fuchs urging students not to attend Thursday’s event hosted by the National Policy Institute. Still, she couldn’t imagine herself anywhere else but in the audience at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at 2:30 p.m.

“As the president, (Fuchs) has to do his job but, as a student of color, I didn’t think he was talking to me,” she said. “It didn’t apply.”

She said all students of color should have attended the event.

“There’s no other place for you to be,” she said. “If you are a student of color on this campus, you should be here.”

When Spencer came out onto the stage, Jackson and a majority of the more than 400 people who attended Spencer’s speech stood with their fists raised and chanted, “Go home, Spencer.”

“I’m not going home,” Spencer responded.

As the chanting continued, Spencer told the crowd they were childish.

“This is the best recruitment tool you could give us,” Spencer said. “They don’t hear anything you’re saying. All they hear is a bunch of shrieking and grunting morons.”

Randy Reddell held up a sign with a picture of NPI organizer Cameron Padgett.

“Im (sic) Cameron Padgett and Im (sic) a racist piece of s---,” Reddell’s sign read.

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During the event, his sign was ripped into pieces by a Spencer supporter behind him.

Reddell picked up the pieces of his sign and continued to hold it up when police removed him from the room. He was issued a trespass warning from UF’s campus.

Police in riot gear watched as the tense shouting match between audience members and Spencer’s group continued.

Eli Mosley, the leader of Identity Evropa — which the Anti-Defamation League identifies as a white supremacist group — took the microphone from Padgett as the crowd booed louder.

“We are here today at the University of Florida because we would like to talk to students and the nation as a whole because we know eyes are on us,” he said. “We will represent you, white America.”

The audience was mostly made up of protesters. Days before the event, NPI announced it would distribute tickets but stated it wanted the audience to be made up of people with a diversity of opinions.

Michael Presley Bobbitt, a Gainesville resident and playwright, was one of the first people to get tickets for the event. While the 41-year-old said he doesn’t approve of violence or Nazis, he said Spencer is still entitled to his freedom of speech.

“There’s free speech all the way or there’s no free speech,” he said. “I’m not sure if we had collectively ignored this idiot, maybe things would have been different.”

Sam Hyde, a UF classical studies sophomore, said he attended to learn what terms like Nazi, white supremacist and identitarian mean.

“I just wanted to see what the hubbub was about,” the 19-year-old said.

Spencer called the Thursday event the most important free speech event in the audience members’ lifetimes. He was angered when people chanted, “F--- you, Spencer” in response.

“Do you not want to hear something, you poor babies, that might contradict with what your professors say? Are any of you willing to think at all?” he said.

Chants and screams echoed among the crowd as Spencer supporters and protesters fought among themselves.

Ryley Valenti, a UF theatre senior who identifies as androgynous, was called a “tranny” by a Spencer supporter. Valenti said she thought protesters did a good job expressing their points, but Spencer was disrespectful.

“The answers he gave us weren’t very satisfactory,” the 23-year-old said. “We are Americans. That’s what ties us together, not our skin color.”

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