Is Richard Spencer a terrorist leader?
via AP

Is Richard Spencer a terrorist leader?

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The appearance of white supremacist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida had officials bracing for the worst. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency and the mayor of Gainesville went as far as to call Spencer as a "terrorist leader." Spencer infamously led the Charlottesville rally, which led to the murder of Heather Heyer. But even those who find his views repugnant say it's wrong to label him a terrorist, and free speech is guaranteed even to the hateful. What do you think? 🤔

The Votes Are In!

Richard Spencer is no stranger to conflict. He was famously punched in the face during an on-camera interview, which led to many asking if it was "okay to punch a Nazi." Spencer also orchestrated the infamous Charlottesville rally that left a young woman dead and many more injured.

So when the neo-Nazi leader demanded to speak at the University of Florida, he was met with staunch opposition. Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency ahead of Spencer's appearance, and the university ultimately had to spend $600,000 in security costs.

The mayor of Gainesville, Lauren Poe, blatantly called Spencer a "terrorist leader" ahead of his speech at the University of Florida: "There’s no question that he is a terrorist leader and that his followers look to commit acts of terror to disrupt our community." While the university was legally obligated to permit Spencer to speak, Poe encouraged Gainesville residents to give Spencer "as small a platform as possible" by ignoring him.

“We need to live our life as normal and not let this disrupt us, because that’s what terrorists do, they want you to disrupt your life, they want to get into your psyche and make you afraid to live a normal, free life. And we can’t let that happen.”

But even those who find Richard Spencer repugnant believe it's important to protect his right to free speech, however hateful. After the University of Florida originally denied Spencer's request to speak on campus, a progressive lawyer defended him, citing the First Amendment.

Back in August, UF officials denied Spencer’s request for space to speak at the school on September 12 because of “the likelihood of violence and potential injury,” according to a statement by UF president Kent Fuchs. But because UF is a public school, declining a speech due to the reaction it may cause violates the First Amendment, which local lawyer Gary Edinger quickly pointed out in a threat to sue the school. Despite disagreeing with Spencer’s views and voting for Bernie Sanders in November, Edlinger took the case pro bono, purely to defend the First Amendment. 

And for all his hateful rhetoric, some believe it's not clear that Spencer directly incites violence, and it is, therefore, unfair to label him a terrorist.

But others argue a terrorist is simply one who terrorizes, just as Spencer and his followers do when they descend upon communities intent on instilling fear.

And others believe Spencer is afforded a certain level of privilege because he is a white male preaching hate.

But others believe it is hypocritical of the left to label Spencer a terrorist while applauding groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter.

And others who fully acknowledge Spencer's abhorrent views, still believe the First Amendment should apply to everyone. 

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