GAINESVILLE, Fla. — White nationalist Richard Spencer spoke to a crowd of boos and yelling at the University of Florida Thursday afternoon.
"Go home Spencer, go home Spencer," students yelled.
Spencer spoke at 2:30 p.m. during an invitation-only event at the school's Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
Channel 9's Angela Jacobs was denied access to the event by Spencer.
Spencer said that he doesn't seek to incite violence but aims to promote controversial speech. More than 500 law enforcement officers were deployed.
Around 5:30 p.m., the Gainesville Police Department said someone in a silver Jeep fired a single shot at the southwest edge of the UF campus at 34th Street and Archer Road. No one was hit.
"You are cartoonish,” Spencer said, according to Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida. "You’re worse than what most people say about the left."
"We want to show Richard Spencer and his followers that our voice is just as loud as theirs and he can't overpower us," a student told Eyewitness News.
UF President W. Kent Fuchs said Wednesday that although he strongly believes in free speech, the security costs of holding such an event at a public university put an unfair burden on taxpayers.
Fuchs said that Spencer is "hijacking" public universities -- which are compelled by the First Amendment to provide a speaking forum -- and forcing taxpayers to pay the resulting security costs.
Fuchs estimates the school will spend $600,000 on security for Spencer's planned speech Thursday. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government, in this case a public university, cannot charge speakers for security costs.
“We have a tremendous amount of support around the country,” Spencer said. Visibly frustrated with the loud audience, he added, “You think this is going to be read as a great victory for UF? No... all the world hears is a bunch of screeching morons.”
Spencer's National Policy Institute is paying $10,564 to rent space for the speaking event.
"I fully understand freedom of speech cannot be burdened legally with the full cost of this, but on the other hand, we're being burdened," Fuchs said. "So taxpayers are subsidizing hate speech."
Following the August violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one counter-demonstrator dead, Fuchs said high security costs are required to ensure a reasonable amount of safety.
The school has called in hundreds of law enforcement officers from federal, state, county and city sources. Streets have been blocked off, and movement around the campus is being tightly controlled.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday, saying a "threat of a potential emergency is imminent" in Alachua County. The order allows local law enforcement to partner with other agencies.
Rapid deployment forces from Miami-Dade and Broward counties traveled to Gainesville for the rally. Scott has also activated the Florida National Guard.
Cameron Padgett, a Georgia State University student who organized the event at the University of Florida for Spencer, called the high security costs "discouraging," and said anyone from either side who incites violence should be arrested.
"That money should be used for scholarships, more research or stay with the taxpayers. But at the end of the day, free speech needs to be protected," he said.
After Scott's emergency declaration, Fuchs said the school received many calls from parents concerned about safety. Fuchs had told students prior to the governor's announcement to go to class as usual, and said the campus would remain open.
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Fuchs said he supported the governor's decision because it was requested by law enforcement, but admitted it created challenges for his administration.
"Parents want to know, `Why is the governor declaring a state of emergency, and yet you, President Fuchs, are saying my son or daughter should be going to class?' That (announcement) elevated that tension locally with parents and brought a national visibility to this," Fuchs said.
Fuchs said he hopes the event will end up bringing the community closer together, and that it can be used to create a dialogue about race.
Student leaders are hosting a "virtual assembly" via Facebook during Spencer's event to discuss race relations and diversity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Cox Media Group