"Nazis are not welcome here": Protests erupt at white nationalist's speech

Last Updated Oct 19, 2017 6:23 PM EDT

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The audience at Richard Spencer's controversial speech at the University of Florida was being drowned out by protesters who continue to chant, scream and boo at the white nationalist while on stage, CBS Miami reports.

The audience yelled "Go home Spencer, go home," "Say it loud, say it clear, Nazis are not welcome here" and "Go home Nazi's go home."

Armed officers stood guard from the balcony overlooking the crowd.

At one point, the audience even started yelling the Gators "orange and blue" chant and the "Hey, hey, hey, goodbye" song as if they were at a Florida football game.

Outside the speech at the Phillips Performing Arts Center, several hundred protesters are lined up to denounce his appearance.

protests richard spencer university of florida

Demonstrators gather at the site of a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who popularized the term "alt-right," at the University of Florida campus on Thu., Oct. 19, 2017 in Gainesville, Fla.

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Spencer's event at the Gainesville campus comes about two months after rallies by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to a deadly clash with counter-protesters. Spencer led a torch-lit rally in Charlottesville for white nationalists earlier this month. 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday, saying a "threat of a potential emergency is imminent" in Alachua County, where the school is located.

The school called in hundreds of law enforcement officers from federal, state, county and city sources. Streets were blocked off and movement around the campus is being tightly controlled.

Officers are also on rooftops, prepared to fire gas canisters should protesters outside the Phillips Performing Arts Center get out of control.

protests richard spencer university of florida

Police on a nearby rooftop monitor the scene at the site of a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

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Amid the heavy police presence, demonstrators taking part in a protest rally called for "No Nazis at UF" and chanted "stand up, fight back" and "go home, Spencer." A couple hundred people lined up at about 1:30 p.m. when the ticket distribution began.

Signs saying "love not hate" and "#TogetherUF" were hung around campus. A local brewery offered free beer in exchange for tickets to the event in an effort to leave seats empty.

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs last month rejected Spencer's plan to speak on campus.

protests richard spencer university of florida

White nationalist Richard Spencer speaks at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Thu., Oct. 19, 2017, in Gainesville, Fla.

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The University changed its mind when Spencer threatened a lawsuit.

"We did know at that point we weren't going to permanently ban him and so if we could find a time and a place when we could assure security, we knew we would allow him at that point," said Fuchs.

On Thursday, Fuchs urged students not to attend the vent and denounced Spencer's white nationalism."I stand with those who reject and condemn Spencer's vile and despicable message," Fuchs said on Twitter.

Regardless of what he says, many say Spencer has won a public relations stunt. The University spent upwards of $600,000 on security for the speech.

Lonny Wilk with the Anti-Defamation League said he hopes it remains calm.

"One of the most important things is not to fan the flames so we have been encouraging students, community members, not to come here today." Wilk says make no mistake about it, nothing good comes from today's speech.

"This is a group that espouses anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, misogyny, there is a definite issue of hate and bigotry."

protests richard spencer university of florida

A man wearing a shirt with swastikas on it is punched by an unidentified member of the crowd near the site of a planned speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who popularized the term "alt-right," at the University of Florida campus on Thu., Oct. 19, 2017 in Gainesville, Fla.

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