GAINESVILLE — A small army of law enforcement officers, many of them from cities and counties around the state, have converged on the University of Florida in preparation for today's speaking appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Officials are hoping they won't be needed — that Spencer will have his say, that protesters will have theirs, and that everyone goes home without violence breaking out. However, as Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said this week, it's hard for anyone to tell whether Gainesville will see a repeat of what happened in August when Spencer showed up in another college town, Charlottesville, Va.
"We all want this to be a non-event," Darnell said. "But there is the potential for violence and for widespread property damage."
Part of the uncertainty has to do with the quiet internal battles people are facing. People like Julia Truman, a 21-year-old UF junior studying sociology. As of Wednesday, she still didn't know whether she would show up to protest.
"There's this big part of me that doesn't want to give him the attention he is looking for," she said of Spencer, "but I'm not just going to sit around and be complicit."
Spencer is scheduled to speak at 2:30 p.m. in the school's Phillips Center. Follow developments on our live blog.