protest

Chad, a 20-year-old political science and sociology junior who declined to release his last name, holds a megaphone to address the crowd and viewers tuning into the protest that “the University of Florida does not care about us (protesters and minorities).” He also stated they would stay on the steps of Tigert Hall until someone came to speak to them.

As Rosana Resende grew up under Brazil’s military dictatorship, she was forced to put her head down and abide by the rules, regardless of her own beliefs.

She said she’s reminded of that dictatorship now, as avowed white supremacist Richard Spencer arrives at UF on Thursday to speak.

“Sometimes, I’m tempted to put my head down and be like that little girl I once was. But I know I cannot,” Resende said.

On Thursday at 2:30 p.m., Spencer will speak at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, located at 3201 Hull Road. Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County ahead of the event. Security costs, split between UF and other agencies, are estimated to be about $600,000, according to Alligator archives.

Resende, a professor with the Center for Latin American Studies, said she is planning to do something in peaceful solidarity Thursday and has chosen to cancel her classes. The Center for Latin American Studies, located at 319 Grinter Hall, is closed Thursday, she said.

Even before the closure of the center was announced, Resende was planning on not coming to campus.

The high cost of security has proven to Resende that safety is a concern, she said.

“Once a university has declared that safety is a concern by spending that amount of money, I’m not going to subject my students or myself to that,” Resende said.

After canceling class, she asked her students how many would have not attended class anyway. A majority of the class raised their hands, stating safety concerns.

As a member of UF’s faculty, Resende said she’s feeling weighted down because of Spencer’s speech and the effects it’s having on campus.

“I’m definitely feeling a burden,” she said. “I’m trying to find ways to say things that are true to myself but don’t overstep what people are asking me to do.”

While Resende acknowledges that some UF professors are not canceling class Thursday, she does not agree with the professors who say they are unable to cancel for safety concerns.

“It is a very privileged position to say you cannot afford to cancel class,” she said.

She said a majority of her students are nonwhite and may feel less safe than other UF students.

Although Resende knows the importance of education for students at UF, she believes some things must come before education in certain situations. Spencer’s speech Thursday represents one of these occasions.

“Students and faculty are people first, we are not robots,” she said.  

Jyoti Parmar, 52, is worried about her husband, a UF employee, coming into work Thursday. Parmar declined to give her husband’s name.

“When Nazis come to town, they’re not coming with peaceful mind,” Parmar said. “They’re not coming just to talk to people. They’re coming to create havoc. They’re coming to cause injury and draw attention to their very faulty and their very hateful reasoning.”

Parmar said despite her husband’s concerns for his safety, he is still going into work at his research lab.

“He is concerned about things possibly getting very violent or out of control, and he’s concerned about access to his work because at the very least, it’s a hinderance to him and his students,” Parmar said.

Liam McGuire, a resident at Lakeside Residential Complex, is worried about the residence hall being in close proximity to Spencer’s event, but said he is not concerned for his safety. However, his mom is asking him to stay inside his room, he said. McGuire, a UF management freshman, said UF should cancel afternoon classes to keep students on campus safe.

“The streets may be clogged with all the protesters and supporters, but I really don’t have many concerns,” the 19-year-old said. “I think the university is doing a pretty good job with more police and safety.”

After living in Gainesville for two years, William Byatt, who now lives in Miami, will drive into town to protest Spencer’s event.

“It feels personal because I lived there,” the 27-year-old said. “I wouldn’t drive six hours to protest him if he was somewhere else.”

Byatt said he disapproves of UF and the state’s efforts to allow Spencer to speak and the money spent on law enforcement protection.

Veronica Donoso, 49, is worried about the safety of her daughter.

Donoso protested administration Monday with No Nazis at UF and said she’s angry at UF’s response to Spencer. Donoso’s oldest daughter goes to UF, and she said she has never seen anything like this happen on campus before.

Donoso’s daughter, 19-year-old UF neurobiological sciences sophomore Sophia Eikenberry, is scared for her safety, especially as a Hispanic woman, Donoso said.

“She’s afraid of going to class on Thursday because she’s a visible minority woman and the hateful speech of Richard Spencer specifically targets people like her; people like me,” Donoso said. “So, why the university allows this guy to come with his dangerous interactions is beyond me. I don’t understand it.”

UF spokesperson Janine Sikes said UF President Kent Fuchs decided not to cancel classes because the administration doesn’t want Spencer’s messages to define UF operations that day.

“Even as we’re being moderately inconvenienced because of the event, we need to stay true to who we are as an academic institution,” Sikes said.

Although Sikes declined to comment on the specific security plans for Thursday, she said University Police is working with other law enforcement agencies, including Florida Highway Patrol and Alachua County Fire Rescue.

“Our police department is very accustomed to working with other agencies — they do it every Saturday for football games,” Sikes said, adding that the security plans will be similar to those during football season but on a larger scale.

No Nazis at UF, a coalition made up of students and faculty, has criticized the administration’s response to Spencer.

More than 60 people packed into Dauer Hall at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for the group’s discussion about Spencer’s upcoming visit. Four UF lecturers and a faculty member spoke about UF’s obligation to students in light of Spencer’s speech.

At the teach-in, panelist and UF lecturer of Hebrew and literature Dror Abend-David invoked Harry Potter.

“Harry is like us, he’s born after a horrible war of genocide and war crimes and horrible things, and no one wants to talk about it,” Abend-David said. “They all refuse to believe that Voldemort is back.”

About half of the attendees had to sit on the floor or stand in the corner as panelists spoke from the table centered in the meeting room.  

Thomas Auxter, a UF professor of philosophy, started the discussion by explaining why white nationalism is on the rise.

“There’s national leadership for this; the president of the United States is a white supremacist,” Auxter said. “Take a look at his policies, take a look at what he says about who can be in the country.”

UF history professor Paul Ortiz, an organizer with No Nazis at UF, said he was disappointed in UF and Fuchs.

Ortiz said Fuchs and the Board of Trustees failed in their obligation to keep UF and the community safe, given the clear threat he feels Spencer and his followers will bring to campus.

“I’ve had neighbors approach me asking if these people in torches are going to march through our neighborhood,” Ortiz said. “The people in the community don’t see this as an exercise of free speech, they see this as an impending riot.”

Joseph Peralta said the teach-in was the second No Nazis event he’s attended. He was on the Plaza of the Americas when the coalition held its press conference Monday and felt reassured by his student community after the Tuesday teach-in.

Peralta, a 21-year-old UF plant science senior, said he feels administration isn’t doing enough, but he is glad to see students taking initiative and fighting back.

“Gainesville is a little pocket of blue in a sea of red,” Peralta said. “It’s definitely good to see people go out and stand up to what’s happening.”

For Lee, a 20-year-old UF telecommunication and sociology senior, who declined to give her last name, Tuesday night was about one thing: solidarity.

“All these people from all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, genders coming together — we’re all defined by the will to stand and do something.” Lee said. “We’re all here to stand for each other and by each other.”

Christina Morales, Jimena Tavel, David Hoffman and Camille Respess contributed to this report.