Although Richard Spencer, the leader of the White Nationalist Institute, says he simply wants to have a peaceful dialogue about race, his recent speaking events have been plagued by violent protest that police could not contain. Following Spencer’s latest speech, three of his supporters were arrested for attempted murder.
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Three of his supporters who traveled from Texas were arrested and charged with attempted murder after they fired a shot at a protestor during Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida on Thursday.
Colton Fears, William Fears, and Tyler Tenbrink were all taken into custody after an altercation broke out between the three alleged white nationalist supporters and a group of protestors. According to the police report, Tenbrink pulled out a handgun, and the two Fears brothers encouraged him to shoot the protestors. Tenbrink fired one bullet at the group but missed.
Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida was not due to an invitation from the university. Spencer forced the university to allow him to speak as his First Amendment right.
After seeing the violence that occurred after Spencer’s last speech in Charlottesville, the Florida university took precautions, spending more than $600,000 on law enforcement for the event. Reports estimate 25 percent of all Florida law enforcement were present in Gainesville. Florida governor Rick Scott issued a state of emergency before Spencer’s arrival.
Spencer’s speech didn’t go as plan as he was booed and hassled as soon as he took the stage around 2:45 pm. Spencer, who was visibly angered by the heckling, resorted to name calling before eventually ending his speech and leaving the venue earlier than planned.
There were only a few reported incidents during the speech. One man, wearing a white shirt with swastikas, was punched in the face before being taken away by law enforcement. Another suspected Spencer supporter was arrested after he branished a firearm near police.
William Fears, one of the men arrested for attempted murder, gave a statement to a local publication before the shooting stating: “Us coming in and saying we’re taking over your town, we’re starting to push back, we’re starting to want to intimidate back.”
He concluded: “We want to show our teeth a little bit because, you know, we’re not to be taken lightly. We don’t want violence; we don’t want harm. But at the end of the day, we’re not opposed to defending ourselves.” Fears apparently didn’t understand that shooting at protestors might be taking things a bit too far.