GAINESVILLE, Fla. - White nationalist Richard Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida was cut short Thursday by chants, jeering and shouting, Gainesville.com reported.
Spencer spoke at an afternoon event at the university’s Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, but cut his scheduled two-hour appearance shortened by 25 minutes after having to yell over a heckling crowd, Gainesville.com reported.
“I feel sorry for you,” Spencer told the crowd. “Do you know how this is going to be read? Do you think this is going to be read as ‘great victory for U of F’? No, it’s going to be read as the University of Florida is filled with child-like antifa, who shout at people as opposed to talking to them.”
The event brought nearly 2,500 protesters to the university, and 500 tickets were distributed for the event in the 1,700-seat theater. Police in riot gear stood on the second level of the Phillips Center, and several rows remained empty, separating Spencer supporters from protesters, Gainesville.com reported.
The university spent an estimated $600,000 for security for the event, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in advance of Spencer’s speech.
Spencer spent the first half hour arguing and trying to be heard above the crowd, which chanted “Black Lives Matter,” “Let’s go, Gators,” and “Go Home, Spencer,” Gainesville.com reported.
Spencer called the crowd “babies” and “pathetic” and their chants “stupid.”
“Oh, Nazis have no right to speak, really?” he asked the crowd. “So, you don’t believe in free speech at all, do you?”
Spencer opened up the floor for questions earlier than expected, Gainesville.com reported.
The first question: “Why are you still here?”
A few dozen in the crowd supported Spencer and his organization, the National Policy Institute, although most declined to comment to the media.
As the event ended, Spencer thanked the university for allowing him to speak, but chastised the crowd, saying UF “failed” its test of allowing free speech, Gainesville.com reported.
“You think that you shut me down, well you didn’t,” Spencer said. “You failed at your own game ... The world is not going to be proud of you.
Some of social media also chastised the Florida crowd. Columnist Ben Shapiro called the students “dumb,” saying “You gave Spencer what he wanted. You should have left him an empty auditorium.”
Well done, dumb University of Florida students. You gave Spencer what he wanted. You should have left him an empty auditorium. #SpencerAtUF— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) October 19, 2017
In a telephone interview after the speech, Spencer described the appearance as "frustrating and exhilarating at the same time."
"I'm inspired that we persevered against totally thuggish behavior," he told The Washington Post. "Screaming at the top of your lungs is the same as trying to bar the door."