White supremacist leader Richard Spencer is a “terrorist”, the mayor of Gainesville, Florida said ahead of Mr Spencer’s controversial speech at the University of Florida.
The planned speech spurred alarm among elected leaders in Florida. Republican Gov Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in response, noting in his order that Mr Spencer’s appearances have in the past “sparked protests and counter-protests resulting in episodes of violence, civil unrest and multiple arrests”.
Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe had harsher words for Mr Spencer.
“There’s no question that he is a terrorist leader and that his followers look to commit acts of terror to disrupt our community,” Mr Poe told the Huffington Post, adding that “it’s clear they look to descend upon communities, harm people and then leave, and those are the acts of terrorists”.
One of the public faces of a resurgent white nationalist movement, Mr Spencer helped organize protests of the removal of a statute of confederate general Robert E Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia that spiraled into bloodshed when a car plowed into counterprotesters.
He has argued that white Americans face a dire threat from immigrants, calling for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” to remedy the situation. He also invoked Nazi symbols by shouting “hail our people! Hail victory!” during a speech celebrating the election of Donald Trump, prompting some members of the audience to extend their arms in Nazi salutes.
Charlottesville, Virginia Protests
Statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee
The statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee stands behind a crowd of hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the ‘alt-right’ during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally 12 August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. They are protesting the removal of the statue from Emancipation Park in the city.
Militia armed with assault rifles
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the ‘alt-right’ with body armor and combat weapons evacuate comrades who were pepper sprayed after the ‘Unite the Right’ rally was declared a unlawful gathering by Virginia State Police. Militia members marched through the city earlier in the day, armed with assault rifles.
Trump supporters at the protest
A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.
Racial tensions sparked the violence
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the ‘alt-right’ exchange insults with counter-protesters as they attempt to guard the entrance to Lee Park during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally
Protesters clash and several are injured
White nationalist demonstrators clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. A state of emergency is declared.
A car plows through protesters
A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The incident resulted in multiple injuries, some life-threatening, and one death.
State police stand ready in riot gear
Virginia State Police cordon off an area around the site where a car ran into a group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia
Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia
President Donald Trump speaks about the ongoing situation in Charlottesville, Virginia from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. He spoke about “loyalty” and “healing wounds” left by decades of racism.
Protesters greeted Mr Spencer in Florida, at times drowning him out as they chanted “it’s your fault” in reference to the violence in Charlottesville.
Since the election, adherents of the so-called “alt-right” – a nebulous philosophy that celebrates America’s white, European heritage – have spurred large counter-demonstrations in speaking at universities.
Provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos addressed a crowd at the University of California, Berkeley last month even after a “Free Speech Week” hosting him was canceled.