In the wake of the violence surrounding last weekends “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia, a number of other white supremacist events around the country are being shut down over concerns for safety and security.
The latest rally request to be cancelled was one to held at the University of Florida in Gainesville, on September 12th. The event, planned by the hate group “National Policy Institute” and led by Richard Spencer, a prominent member of the racist alt-right movement and a participant in the Charlottesville march, had started to draw increased scrutiny after the chaos in Virginia.
“Amid serious concerns for safety, we have decided to deny the National Policy Institute’s request to rent event space at the University of Florida,” Said UF President W. Kent Fuchs in a statement released online.
This decision was made after assessing potential risks with campus, community, state and federal law enforcement officials following violent clashes in Charlottesville, Va., and continued calls online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: ‘The Next Battlefield is in Florida.’”
While the rally at USF was never officially approved, a similar event at Texas A&M University had actually been scheduled for September 11th, before being cancelled earlier this week. The university also cited security concerns over the likelihood of violence. Called a “White Lives Matter” rally, it had been organized by a man who has previously held similar events at Texas A&M, to include one featuring white nationalist icon Richard Spencer in December.
In order to cancel a free speech event, universities and other public entities must prove that there is both an imminent threat of violence and one that is also likely to occur. Otherwise their case to cancel such an event will not stand up in court. And unlike private institutions, public universities are required by law to honor the First Amendment rights of those wishing to use their facilities for events.