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Florida university braces for speech by white nationalist

Police on campusImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Some classes near to the venue have been cancelled

Hundreds of police are flooding a Florida campus as a white nationalist is due to speak later at an event that has provoked a state of emergency.

The University of Florida says it was obligated under law to allow the event and no one invited Richard Spencer.

About 3,000 people have signed up on a Facebook page to attend a protest rally called “No Nazis at UF”.

It comes two months after a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to deadly clashes.

Mr Spencer’s organisation, the National Policy Institute, is vetting reporters it will allow inside to cover the speech.

Critics have lamented that the college, which reluctantly permitted the event in order to protect Mr Spencer’s free speech rights, will let him choose which journalists are allowed to cover it.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Richard Spencer and his allies clashed with police in Charlottesville

Demonstrators plan to gather outside the performing arts centre where Mr Spencer is scheduled to speak from 14:30 local time (1830 GMT).

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish anti-bigotry group, flash mobs are being encouraged by the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, at minority and Jewish institutions during the speech.

The college said it would have to spend more than $ 500,000 (£380,000) on security.

Protesters have unfurled a sign on campus proclaiming “Love, not hate” and have drawn chalk designs on the pavement promoting inclusiveness and diversity.

Meanwhile, former president George W Bush decried intolerance while addressing an event in New York.

“Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed,” he said.

“Our identity as a nation,” he continued, “unlike many other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors US hate groups, said Mr Spencer is “a radical white separatist whose goal is the establishment of a white ethno-state in North America”.

Mr Spencer said this week’s emergency declaration by the state governor was “flattering” but “most likely overkill”, reports the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

The University of Florida Police Department, Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Florida Highway Patrol are being deployed.

Some classes close to the speech venue will be cancelled, the college said.

Items such as umbrellas, water bottles, and backpacks will not be permitted inside or nearby the event.

University President Kent Fuchs has urged students to snub the speech.

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Media captionWhite supremacist Richard Spencer: ‘Donald Trump’s arrow is pointing in our direction.’

“By shunning him and his followers we will block his attempt for further visibility,” Mr Fuchs said in a statement.

The university’s Black Student Union warned that demonstrators should be cautious.

“If you choose to protest, it is imperative that you utilise sound judgment with every action that you take and not be provoked to resort to violence,” the club said in a statement.

University spokeswoman Janine Sikes said that the school cannot control who will be permitted to attend the white nationalist event.

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