Heavy police presence at UF ahead of white nationalist rally

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Security measures are ramping up at the University of Florida in Gainesville ahead of a speech from white nationalist Richard Spencer.

Officials told Channel 9's Angela Jacobs that $500,000 will be spent on extra security before Thursday's speech.

Security heads can't give Eyewitness News specifics of the comprehensive plan underway, but said what’s happening Wednesday is called "organizational readiness," and it will continue well into Thursday night.

“You know we'd love for it to be out of sight out of mind, but we must be prepared,” said Sgt. Chris Sims, with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a State of Emergency Monday ahead of the speech. He said it was not to cause alarm, but allow for easier local, state and federal response and teamwork, if needed.
 
Sims said more staffing and measures are the way.
 
"Knowing that is nice, but I don't want to be around it. I don't want to see anything of it," said UF freshman Jordanna Herrmann.
 
Many students shared the same thoughts and told Eyewitness News that they're staying away from the protests and counter protests.

“It's not even political anymore and I'm glad they stepped up security, but it's ridiculous Richard Spencer is on this campus,” said UF sophomore Ryan Cirella. “It’s the outsiders coming in because hate him or not, this guy has a following, he has a crowd. So the fact that he’s coming and brining supporters is very dangerous.”

Spencer’s speech will be at  2:30 p.m.

UF plans to remain open during the event, but access to campus buildings will be tightly restricted, and its faculty has been asked to be understanding of students who are fearful to be on campus that day.

Here's what you need to know about Richard Spencer: