Free $peech: Maybe Not In Gainesville




We’ve all heard some variant on the expression “freedom ain’t free”.

If you have been wondering the exact cost, the answer is $302,184.

At least according to the Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell and the Alachua County Commission.

That’s the bill they have submitted to the University of Florida for police security related to the October speech by white supremacist Richard Spencer. 

The UF should tell them to take that bill and “stick it where the sun don’t shine”. If they are cowardly enough to pay, the First Amendment will be $302,184 poorer for it.

This began when Spencer attempted to rent the Phillips Center at UF so that he could spew his hate message that White Christian men are far more oppressed than Blacks in chattel slavery or Jews portrayed in the Holocaust. I say “portrayed” since Spencer will tell that the Holocaust is the ultimate “fake news” of the millennia.

When the school made noise that it would not allow him on campus he threatened to sue and the school capitulated. The speech was scheduled.

Elements of the liberal/left promised to disrupt Spencer’s appearance. Nazis and white nationalists said they would fight back.


Protesters greet white nationalist hate monger at UF


In the wake of Charlottesville violence, Gainesville was worried.

So, everybody except Seal Team 6 were on the streets of Gainesville when Spencer arrived.  All those cops from the University of Florida Police Department, Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, FBI and even Miami-Dade and Jacksonville police cost money.

Lots of money.

The Alachua County Sheriff now wants the school to reimburse her office for $302,184.  That is money she paid her deputies in overtime and to pay other expenses.

Spencer isn’t responsible for the expense. The Supreme Court decided in 1992 it is illegal to force a speaker to pay because some folks might disrupt his speech. In Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement, the Supremes called requiring speakers to pay a large fee for protection for their words a “heckler’s veto…. [s]peech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.”

So, Alachua County big wigs decided it cost them $301,184 to police the speech and UF should pay. That’s the roughly the cost of a year’s tuition for 14 students.


Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell


Police were there to protect a speech, not drunks stumbling out of the Swamp after a football game. The cost is high, but what should the price tag be for free speech?

Instead of trying to stick UF with a bill, Gainesville grandees should remember that the university’s 52,000-plus students keep money pouring into Alachua County and its businesses. Without UF, Alachua County would be a rural backwater. If there is a price to housing UF because some of wacko speech, Alachua County should just chalk it up as a cost of doing business….a lot of business.

The poohbahs of Alachua also need travel over to the UF campus and take a course on the First Amendment. They need to understand that the key word in Free Speech is Free. Speech cannot be abridged by government in any way, including by imposing a fee for protecting it.

UF should fight Alachua County’s unreasonable charge on Free Speech.


 —Buddy Nevins contributed to this opinion article. 


6 Responses to “Free $peech: Maybe Not In Gainesville”

  1. She not He says:

    Sheriff Sadie Darnell is assuredly a “she.”


    Of course. Sorry for the mistake.

  2. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Spencer was filled with hate speech.Im surprised the security detail wasn.t even more($).Gainsville had to take precautions.Look what happened up in Virginia.Safety is not cheap.What if they did nothing and madd pandemonium broke out.Then just the opposite you would be saying they did nothing.Security measures were not in place etc.So even those these numbers($) you report are through the roof it was money well spent..

  3. Floridan says:

    I would suggest that outside speakers should be sponsored by an on-campus student organization. Maybe that was the case here — perhaps Spencer was sponsored by a UF White Nationalist Club, whatever name it goes b.y

  4. Kathleen Maynard says:

    The very same University of Florida that spent half a million dollars to protect Richard Spencer’s “First Amendment right to promote white supremacy” gave me a Trespass Notice (I’m a former UF Shands employee of 25+ years and UF alumnus) for “writing an inflammatory Facebook post” on patient dumping at UF Health Shands Hospital. I did not trespass; they came to my home to deliver the notice which bars me from campus for 3 years. Exactly what kind of “free speech” does the University of Florida support? Please see my Facebook Community page, “UF Health Shands Hospital Gainesville Florida-Unofficial”.

  5. Sam The Sham says:

    The Charlottesville fiasco was organized on BOTH sides by the same entities. The organizer was an Occupy Wall Street protester before shilling as a white supremacist. Protesters on BOTH sides were bused in on the same buses. Astonishingly, the local police forced the two groups together to engender violence.

    Non of that happened in Gainesville.

    The reason Charlottesville happened was to engender a hate war on all sides and to create an atmosphere of hate and fear so speakers with an opinion other than your Move trouble makers would be suppressed. It worked moderately well but now we have moved on to “Me Too” issues.

  6. frank gershon says:

    So racists can give hateful speeches and taxpayers must pay including those blacks, Jews and Hispanics who are hated? Something needs to be changed.