“Stay out of the way of protesters if they come to Gainesville,” said Adora Obi Nweze, Florida state conference president of the NAACP. “Our work will begin when it’s over.”

The public was urged to stay away from any rallies promoting white nationalism that may take place in Gainesville or Alachua County.

State and local NAACP officials and top local law enforcement officials made the plea to approximately 100 people attending an NAACP “Call to Action: State of Alachua County” mass meeting held Monday night at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in northeast Gainesville.

“Stay out of the way of protesters if they come to Gainesville,” said Adora Obi Nweze, Florida state conference president of the NAACP. “Our work will begin when it’s over.”

Nweze said local law enforcement agencies have a plan to deal with any rallies that may come to Gainesville, such as the one that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12.

“We are going to have to prepare now and do what law enforcement is telling us to do to save lives,” Nweze said. “This is about saving a life before we lose a life.”

Though a visit by white supremacist Richard Spencer to the University of Florida campus was canceled by UF President Kent Fuchs, the thought of him coming to Gainesville garnered a lot of attention at the meeting.

In announcing the cancellation of the Spencer visit to UF, Fuchs said the violence in Charlottesville influenced his decision. Three people died and more than 30 suffered injuries during the rally.

Spencer, 39, is editor of and president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank. Spencer, who advocates for a white homeland for a “dispossessed white race,” was at the Charlottesville rally and often speaks on college campuses, including a visit in April to Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, that spurred protests and debates over free speech.

UF Police Chief Linda Stump-Kurnick said it is unclear if Spencer will file a suit against UF to allow him to speak on campus. He was scheduled to speak on campus Sept. 12.

Fuchs decision had nothing to do with curtailing Spencer’s freedom of speech, but the possibility that violence might break out on campus during Spencer’s visit, Stump-Kurnick said.

“We are asking you and our students to turn your backs of Richard Spencer if he comes here,” said Stump-Kurnick, adding she has been meeting with 50 to 60 law enforcement officials daily to plan and prepare for a possible visit by Spencer.

Spencer likes to visit college campuses to get publicity, Stump-Kurnick said.

Sheriff Sadie Darnell also urged the public not to attend a Spencer rally if it happens. However, she said the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office will assist UPD with any resources needed if a rally is held on campus.

“The best thing that can happen if the planned event takes place is for the good people of this community to not show up,” Darnell said. “I would like it for the Gainesville and University of Florida to be known as the places where Richard Spencer couldn’t get any exposure.”

Chief Tony Jones of the Gainesville Police Department agreed with the other law enforcement officials. He said those attending the meeting would not be the ones involved in violent counter protest activity, and he urged them to spread the word to others not to be baited into going to a Spencer rally if one is held in Gainesville.

“Go out as ambassadors and encourage people not to attend the rally if it takes place,” Jones said.

Evelyn Foxx, president of the Alachua County NAACP, ended the meeting by reminding people that the “call to action” is to stay away from a Spencer rally, if one takes place. On July 1, Foxx found a Confederate flag on her lawn and GPD has investigated the incident, as well as phone death threats Foxx has been receiving from callers claiming to be in the Ku Klux Klan.

“Remember our call to action and stay away from the rally if it comes to Gainesville, and tell others to do the same,” Foxx said. “Spread the word that we need to ignore the likes of Richard Spencer.”

The meeting included a discussion about education in Alachua County led by School Board member Leanetta McNealy and Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, a former Gainesville city commissioner and chair of the NAACP education committee in Alachua County. It was announced that NAACP officials will be meeting with Fuchs and Karen Clarke, newly appointed superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools.

The largest applause during the meeting came when Hinson-Rawls, a democrat, announced she is considering running next year against incumbent Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, for the U.S. Congressional District 3 seat.

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