University of Florida denies white nationalist event request, citing safety concerns

By Sarah Larimer

The University of Florida has denied a request to rent space on its campus for an event that was expected to bring white nationalist leader Richard Spencer to the public flagship school next month.

The decision to deny the National Policy Institute’s request was detailed in a message from university President W. Kent Fuchs, which was posted to Facebook on Wednesday. Spencer is president of the institute, which is headquartered in Northern Virginia.

“Amid serious concerns for safety, we have decided to deny the National Policy Institute’s request to rent event space at the University of Florida,” Fuchs said in the statement. “This decision was made after assessing potential risks with campus, community, state and federal law enforcement officials following violent clashes in Charlottesville, and continued calls online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: ‘The Next Battlefield is in Florida.’”

The institute had contacted the school to “reserve space for a speaking event”  Sept. 12, according to a previous message from Fuchs. In a statement posted on Saturday, he explained that the proposed event would have featured Spencer. He said that “no student groups or other groups affiliated with the university” had sponsored the proposed speech.

“I find the racist rhetoric of Richard Spencer and white nationalism repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for,” Fuchs said in his statement Wednesday. “That said, the University of Florida remains unwaveringly dedicated to free speech and the spirit of public discourse. However, the First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others.

“The likelihood of violence and potential injury — not the words or ideas — has caused us to take this action.”

Spencer did not immediately return an email seeking comment Wednesday. The institute also did not immediately return a request for comment.

“I signed an agreement and sent it in to the event coordinator,” Cameron Padgett, the man who was trying to set up the UF event, told the Associated Press. “I don’t know who’s advising them on why they think they can do this.”

Padgett is affiliated with the institute, according to the AP, which wrote that he plans to file “a legal challenge.”

“Should the National Policy Institute challenge this legally, we are prepared to vigorously defend the president’s decision,” Janine Sikes, a UF spokeswoman, told The Post.

Asked if the university had ever denied such a speaking request before, Sikes responded: “We’re not aware, at least in recent history, that we have.”

UF’s decision comes after crowds of white nationalists and white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters last weekend in Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia. One person was killed and 19 others wounded Saturday when a car plowed through a crowd of counterprotesters, and two state police officers died in a helicopter crash.

“Truly, what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend, we were looking at this request differently before that, and after, post-Charlottesville, our law enforcement reached out,” Sikes said. “We just had some bigger concerns, in terms of safety and security of our students, faculty, staff, and any visitors.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said Wednesday that he had spoken with Fuchs, as well as Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell. Scott said he told officials that he would “help provide any security they need.”

“No one should be doing anything that creates violence,” he said. “I’ve talked to them a few times, and I’ve also talked to the [Gainesville] police chief, Tony Jones, there, and said the same thing. My focus there is to make sure that whatever decision the University of Florida makes, we make sure there’s public safety.”

On Monday, Texas A&M University announced that a “White Lives Matter” event scheduled to be held on its campus Sept. 11 had been canceled. Texas A&M also cited safety concerns when announcing its decision.

Texas A&M said in a statement that it canceled the event after “consultation with law enforcement and considerable study.” The planned outdoor event, scheduled by Preston Wiginton, was expected to be held at Rudder Plaza,  in the middle of campus in College Station. Wiginton is a former Texas A&M student. He wasn’t invited by any campus groups, and no campus groups had agreed to sponsor him, the university said.

A media notification about Wiginton’s event was headlined: “Today Charlottesville Tomorrow Texas A&M,” which A&M noted in its statement about its cancellation.

“Linking the tragedy of Charlottesville with the Texas A&M event creates a major security risk on our campus,” that statement said. “Additionally, the day-long event would provide disruption to our class schedules and to student, faculty and staff movement (both bus system and pedestrian).”

Wiginton has denied that the words were a reference to the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville.

This post has been updated.

Edited for mb3-org.com

Police Brace for More White Nationalist Rallies, but Have Few Options

After events in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend showed how much violence white nationalist rallies could provoke, police chiefs from Richmond, Va., to Boston were taking steps to avoid a repeat of a situation in which the police appeared to have little control of the crowd.

Texas A&M University canceled a “white lives matter” rally at which Richard Spencer, a white supremacist leader, was to appear, citing safety concerns. Officials in Mountain View, Calif., where Google has its headquarters, were gearing up for one of several marches at the company’s offices around the country to protest the firing of a male employee who wrote a memo criticized as sexist.

Rallies like the one in Charlottesville, fueled by overt displays of racism, attended by members of self-described militias, and attracting counterprotesters, pose novel challenges: Many of the demonstrators are legally and openly carrying firearms, including semiautomatic weapons. And instead of protesters versus police, as has often been the case in recent years, the situation is civilian versus civilian, with some participants spoiling for a fight.

But to deal with these new circumstances, the police have few new tactics.

Crowd-control techniques are much the same, experts said, whether demonstrators are armed or not. A crucial technique is keeping opposing sides apart, which the police tried and failed to do in Charlottesville on Saturday. In the hours leading up to the planned rally, people fought in full view of police officers. On Monday, a man was charged with driving a car into a crowd of counterdemonstrators, killing a woman and injuring more than a dozen others. The actual rally was called off by the police after the governor declared a state of emergency.

“Charlottesville turned into a riot,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston, where a free speech rally was thought to be planned for Saturday, although some of the details were murky. “Both sides were able to connect. In our city, we will do everything we can that those two sides never connect.”

 Mayor Walsh said that Boston wanted to discourage the rally’s organizers from coming, and that William B. Evans, the police commissioner, was developing a plan to keep the rally and any counter demonstrations separate. By late Monday, it appeared that some of the billed speakers were backing out.

But if there is a rally, unlike the authorities in Charlottesville, officials in Boston will probably not be forced to confront a large number of armed protesters because Massachusetts allows only those with a gun license to openly carry a firearm. In Virginia, no license is required for those over 18.

In South Carolina, where there were dozens of protests related to the removal of the Confederate battle flag from government buildings, firearms are prohibited from the State Capitol grounds. Leroy Smith, the state director of public safety, said that intense anger over such issues combined with the presence of firearms would have been a toxic mix.

“With the added element of open carry, it creates more of a challenge for law enforcement officers because usually when you see a weapon and that person is not a law enforcement officer, you know you need to defuse the situation,” he said.

Many urban police chiefs have opposed open-carry laws, even in states where people feel fiercely protective of their gun rights.

John Eterno, a former training instructor with the New York Police Department who now teaches at Molloy College, said the presence of weapons combined with the unexpectedly large crowds in Charlottesville might have thrown off that city’s planning. When people have the right to carry firearms, the police must balance caution with respect, he said. Officers can do little more than check the person’s demeanor for signs of aggression and monitor whether the firearm is properly holstered.

The Charlottesville police have faced a hailstorm of criticism from protesters and counterprotesters alike. Witnesses have said officers did little as violent confrontations unfolded in front of them.

On Monday, officials defended their response, noting the lack of property damage in the city, and the Virginia governor said little could have been done to prevent a driver from hitting pedestrians.

At a news conference on Monday afternoon, Al Thomas, the Charlottesville police chief, acknowledged that there were times when police officers were spread too thinly. “We had to actually send out forces to multiple locations to deal with a number of disturbances,” Chief Thomas said. He added: “It was certainly a challenge. We were spread thin once the groups dispersed.”

But he also noted a central problem with the strategy of keeping opponents away from each other: The police cannot always control who is going to go where. “We did make attempts to keep the two sides separate. However, we cannot control which side someone enters the park,” Chief Thomas said.

He said that there had been a plan to keep the Unite the Right rally separate from counterprotesters, but that few cooperated.

Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, cited a police estimate that 80 percent of the protesters and counterprotesters were armed, and that the militias, who described themselves as neutral peacekeepers, had arsenals superior to that of the police. But Chief Thomas denied that his officers were “intimidated by the firepower of the alt-right.”

Officers began the day in regular uniform. “Once the violence erupted, once the plan was altered, we had to quickly transition our officers into their protective gear,” Chief Thomas said.

Charlottesville had known that it would be ill prepared. The city, fearing that many more than the estimated 400 people would attend, said it would issue the permit only if the location were moved.

“Because Emancipation Park is a relatively confined space of just over one acre in a densely populated urban area with limited parking space, it is unable to accommodate safely even a peaceful crowd of this size,” the city manager, Maurice Jones, warned rally organizers in a letter on Aug. 7.

“The city’s law enforcement, fire and emergency medical personnel cannot adequately protect people in and around Emancipation Park due to the number of anticipated attendees trying to occupy such a small and confined space.”

The city wanted to move the protest to another park, but the American Civil Liberties Union successfully argued in federal court on behalf of Jason Kessler, the organizer of the event, that the city was retaliating against him because of the “content” of his speech, citing the fact that none of the counterprotesters’ permits were revoked. Thousands attended.

The leaders of the Unite the Right rally have pledged to return to Charlottesville.

This weekend, the mayor of Lexington, Ky., announced plans to try to take down two Confederate statues.

The chief of police in Lexington said he had already spoken with officials in Charlottesville for details on what worked and what had not.

“You’ll have people feeling passionate wanting to come in, but you’ll also have professional protesters who want to come in and fight. We’ll be prepared for them also,” said the chief, Mark Barnard.

But, he added, “You can have as much intelligence about the groups and their past behavior, you can have all planning and all the training, but you can’t predict what will go on.” Kentucky is an open-carry state.

He said he doubted the city would give permits to groups with opposing views to speak from the same location at the same time.

“You wouldn’t allow that,” he said. “You’d have to make a decision and have it at a different time. But it doesn’t mean the other side won’t show up.

Edited for mb3-org.com

From the Streets of #Seattle: Solidarity with #Charlottesville, Tactical Reflections, and Liberals Still Fucking Suck

This article discusses the demonstrations that took place in Seattle the day after the Charlottesville murder and details the actions of anarchists and antifascists to confront the Alt-Right group the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, led by Joey Gibson.

via From the Streets of #Seattle: Solidarity with #Charlottesville, Tactical Reflections, and Liberals Still Fucking Suck — Enough is Enough!

Protests Rage On in Kenya After President Is Re-Elected

By 

KISUMU, Kenya — The sun had barely risen, but protesters were already bracing for another wave of confrontations with the police in the city of Kisumu on Saturday after an election disputed by supporters of Kenya’s opposition party.

As the smell of tear gas and smoke from burning debris clung to the morning mist, residents began assessing the damage from the previous night’s protests after the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta, a vote that many in this part of western Kenya believe was stolen, even though international observers concluded that it was fair and transparent.

In Nairobi, the capital, the opposition National Super Alliance Party claimed that the police were provoking violence and accused them of killing dozens of people nationwide, although party officials provided no evidence for their claims. Reports from news agencies put the death toll from violence overnight at 11.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, an independent organization, said Saturday that 24 people had been killed in election-related violence since Tuesday’s vote, including 17 in Nairobi. A provincial commissioner in Kisumu, Wilson Njega, said that at least one person had been killed in the city.

Hundreds of residents of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold, clashed overnight with the police, who, they said, cut off electricity to create confusion, sprayed live bullets into crowds, fired tear gas and blasted them with water cannons. The police, witnesses said, conducted house-to-house raids in parts of the city, and residents accused some officers of beating them with clubs and stealing money from them. The police in Kisumu declined to comment on the allegations.

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“If the police are coming to beat us, we are ready for war,” Calvin Otieng, a Kisumu resident, shouted, waving a plastic bottle filled with flammable liquid, his eyes bloodshot. He had not eaten for days, he said. Large groups of men talked loudly on a major road that was blocked with rocks, burning tires and overturned market stalls. Some shops had been set on fire, their corrugated walls, still smoking, collapsed in a metallic heap.

“We are angry and we want to demonstrate,” said another resident, Ken Wamungu, 30. “But the police are not protecting our right to protest.”

Around midnight on Friday, Mr. Kenyatta was declared the winner against Raila Odinga, the 72-year-old opposition leader. The announcement was made after a long and bitter contest that was roiled by allegations of vote rigging, fears of violence and the unresolved murder of a top election official just days before the vote.

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Riot police prepared to advance toward protesters amid burning barricades during clashes in Nairobi on Saturday. CreditBen Curtis/Associated Press

Throughout his campaign, Mr. Odinga roused supporters by warning that the election results would be manipulated. As ballots were being counted, he claimed that the electoral commission’s servers had been hacked — which he linked to the poll official’s death — to award Mr. Kenyatta a significant lead. Then, the opposition leader asserted that he had obtained secret information from the electoral body showing him to be the real winner.

So far, Mr. Odinga has not provided evidence supporting those allegations.

But tensions were ratcheted up when he refused to concede defeat, saying that the electoral commission had not properly addressed the opposition’s grievances before officially announcing the winner. He has urged his followers to remain calm, but he also said he did not “control the people.”

At the same time, top opposition officials have indicated that they are unwilling to resolve their concerns about election fraud in court, as they tried, unsuccessfully, to do after the 2013 election. Election observers warned that such comments could be interpreted by the opposition’s supporters as a call to protest. Many did.

Shortly after the announcement of Mr. Kenyatta’s victory was televised, riots erupted in major cities across Kenya. They were mostly in poor areas that are generally neglected by the central government, and where residents suffer from high unemployment and rising living costs. Many cannot afford to buy ugali, a staple food, or pay school fees for their children. “We are hungry and angry,” said a Kisumu resident, Steve Odundo, 22.

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Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga ran from the police during clashes in the Kibera slum in Nairobi on Saturday. CreditGoran Tomasevic/Reuters

So far, the death toll is lower than feared, given Kenya’s history of electoral violence.

In 2007, elections that were viewed as widely flawed touched off bloodshed that left at least 1,300 people dead and 600,000 displaced. After elections in 2013, when voting systems were afflicted by widespread malfunctionsand there were again accusations of vote rigging, more than 300 people were killed. Mr. Odinga claimed that he was robbed of victory in both elections.

Many supporters of Mr. Odinga said they were angry that international observers, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, did not appear to take the opposition’s claims seriously.

The protests have also put attention on response by the police. Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan authorities to exercise restraint.

They “should not use tear gas or live ammunition simply because they consider a gathering unlawful,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

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Emergency workers tended to about 15 people who were said to have beaten by police officers during clashes in Nairobi on Saturday. CreditMarco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital, named after Mr. Odinga’s father, an independence hero, six people were being treated for gunshot wounds and other injuries.

David Okoth, 32, was shot in the neck. His brother, Martin, said the pair had been eating at home when they heard a commotion. When they stepped outside, he said, “we saw a police car coming close by, spraying bullets at us.” One of the bullets hit Mr. Okoth, he said.

Moses Oduor, 28, had traveled to Kisumu from Nairobi to vote in his ancestral home. When young men started rioting, police officials began raiding houses in parts of Kisumu, yanking people outside and beating them, he said.

Mr. Oduor said he sustained broken ribs and a broken leg during a confrontation with police officers. The police also took his wallet, money and phone, he said. “But they threw my ID card back at me,” he said.

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An injured man in the Kibera slum of Nairobi on Saturday. CreditPatrick Meinhardt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Jebel Ngere, a police official overseeing operations in Nyandala, a neighborhood in Kisumu, declined to comment on witnesses’ claims, but he said that many of the protesters were using the election as a pretext to loot. One local supermarket was vandalized, he said.

Protesters, armed with rocks, slingshots and machetes, were being pushed away from major roads and central parts of the city, which the police and soldiers were trying to secure, Mr. Ngere said.

But the protesters kept returning in waves, he said, taunting the police with rocks and other projectiles, before being forced to retreat again.

About 600 uniformed members of the security forces and plainclothes officers have been deployed in Kisumu, a number far greater than after previous elections, according to officials.

On one road in Nyandala, only soldiers and police officers were visible. Some were taking a break, reading newspapers. Others drank fizzy drinks at a shop, the only one open.

Suddenly, a rock was thrown at them from inside a maze of houses. Then another. Two police officials quickly took cover near some stalls and moved along the walls.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” Mr. Ngere said. “But this time around, we have made proper arrangements.”

“Everything is prepared,” he said, in a somewhat ominous tone.

Edited for mb3-org.com

Statement Re: John Venezia Park

It’s come to our attention that a bunch of blatantly leftist graffiti has shown up in John Venezia Park in Briargate, featuring Hammer and Sickle iconography, the Anarchist circle A, and slogans like “Left Solida” and “Antifa.” As far as we have been able to determine, no one affiliated with our group was responsible for […]

via Statement Re: John Venezia Park — Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists