White nationalist leader Richard Spencer gave Israel as an example of an “ethno-state” he aspires to create in the United States during a controversial speech at the University of Florida on Thursday. Hundreds protested Spencer's presence outside the auditorium.
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“The Jewish state of Israel is not just another country in the Middle East. It is a country for Jews around the world,” he said. The audience booed at the mention of Israel.
Spencer also mentioned Poland, Russia and Hungary as "European states that want to uphold their identities,” saying that he doesn't "want the world to be an undifferentiated mass of individuals going shopping in a global economy.”
He said that, “like Jews in the 19th century had an ideal of Zionism,” he and his compatriots have a dream of a white American “ethno-state.”
Hundreds of people protested Spencer’s presence outside the building with signs and anti-Nazi chants. Police officers stood outside the UF Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to prevent violence, while protesters shouted, “Not in our town! Not in our state! We don't want your Nazi hate!”
Spencer resorted to baiting the audience in the half-empty auditorium as they chanted loudly, “go home Spencer, go home!” and the speech quickly descended into a shouting match as Spencer and his audience traded insults.
To the boos and chants and jeers, he yelled defiantly “I’m not going home!” He bemoaned the oppression he said he experienced in Charlottesville, where he said “free speech was stifled.”
“You can't shut any of us up. No one can hear you. The whole world is watching this. They don't hear anything you are saying. All they hear is a bunch of shrieking and grunting morons. That's not an argument,” Spencer shouted.
“Within all of you is a hidden doubt about the system you are experiencing, about a system that isn’t just anti-white, a system that is against all identities,” he said.
As the crowd chanted "Black Lives Matter!" he chuckled, "consider the absurdity of yelling this at me."
“You aren’t speaking. You are trying to create a mob that will shut down free speech are you adults, are you ready to speak for yourself. You all look like pre-schoolers who aren’t ready for ideas that might get a little challenging,” Spencer said.
The school estimates it is spending $600,000 on security to ensure no repeat of violent clashes connected to a white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one dead in August.
UF cited the Charlottesville violence in rejecting an initial request from Spencer to speak at the university, but later relented on free speech grounds. Florida's governor declared a state of emergency for the event.
Andrew Anglin, the American blogger who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, has called on followers who are unable to attend Spencer's speech in Florida to target Jewish and African-American institutions, the Anti-Defamation League said.
According to the ADL, Anglin provided his white supremacist supporters with the addresses of the Chabad Jewish Center, the Institute of Black Culture and other locations in Florida and suggested they hold "flash demos" there, similar to the brief rally Spencer led in Charlottesville earlier this month.
Chabad director Rabbi Berl Goldman said that dozens of Jewish students, parents and staff members had contacted him with worries regarding the event.