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Rick Scott: State will help UF prepare for white supremacist’s visit

Gov. Rick Scott said he’s asked state agency heads to offer the University of Florida whatever help it needs to prepare for next month’s campus visit by a noted white supremacist.

Scott on Tuesday said he contacted the heads of the Departments of Law Enforcement, Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the Florida National Guard. He asked them to confer with university President Kent Fuchs and Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell on what assistance the state could provide.

UF administration and campus police are working on a security plan for Richard Spencer, the head of the white supremacist National Policy Institute.

He’s scheduled to appear on the Gainesville campus on Sept. 12. Scott said he wants to make sure that if university officials have any concerns that they can reach out to those law enforcement officials, adding that “they can always reach out to me.”

Scott has criticized events in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday that led to the death of a progressive activist.

“Whether it’s the KKK or neo-Nazis or white supremacists, it’s evil,” he told reporters Tuesday, after speaking at a news conference on tourism at Tampa’s Florida Aquarium. “They don’t belong in our society. Of course, we all know we have the First Amendment, but we’re not ever going to condone violence in our state.”

Scott was also asked about the continuing saga about a Confederate statue in Tampa that is scheduled to be discussed again at Wednesday’s Hillsborough Board of County Commission meeting.

Commissioners voted last month to move the statue to a cemetery in Brandon, but a slow-moving private fundraising effort created to pay to remove the statue has prompted speculation that some members of the board may be considering an idea of placing the movement of the statue on the 2018 ballot.

“We have a democratic process in our state, so any conversations like that should go through that process, and then everybody figure out how we’re going to work together,” Scott said.

A protest in Durham, North Carolina on Monday night against racism took a turn when participants toppled a Confederate statue. “The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable, but there is a better way to remove these monuments,” tweeted North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

Scott didn’t weigh in on what he thought about maintaining or removing such monuments, but merely emphasized that everything should go through a formal process.

He trotted out statistics touting how well Florida is doing regarding crime rates and job openings, “because we have a process that works. But everybody has to go through that process. If there are any changes that we make, just go through a logical process and have a conversation about that. That’s what’s great about our country.”

The news conference at the Aquarium took place at the same time as the Tampa Port Authority was meeting down the street on Channelside Drive.

When Scott named Tampa businessman Mike Griffin to the Authority’s board earlier this month, he mentioned how he was “concerned to see media reports detailing wasteful spending by the executives at Port Tampa Bay.

“It’s your money, let’s all remember this,” he said Tuesday, regarding the Port. “If you’re going to go spend taxpayers’ money, it’s all somebody’s money. Let’s watch how that money is being spent, and let’s make sure it’s transparent, make sure it’s accountable.”

“I think Mike Griffin’s first board meeting is today. But all boards, everybody who’s elected, everybody who’s appointed, you’ve got to say yourself, this is somebody else’s money.”

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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