A protester escorted a white nationalist outside Richard Spencer’s talk: ‘He just smiled and called me a racist slur’
By Jonah Hinebaugh
Members of the “alt-right” frequently dox, or search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent. In order to avoid this, the student interviewed in this story asked to go under the pseudonym Baghat Singh to protect his identity.
In a small parking lot at the University of Florida, hundreds of protesters circled a single man with swastikas printed on his white T-shirt.
Tension rose as the man continued to spew racial slurs at minorities in the crowd. Some of the protesters tried to reason with him. Some tried to engage him in debate, but none of that worked.
The police stood silently, on the sidelines, unwilling to step in. Protesters began to shove him. He smirked, trying his best to stand tall amid the hundreds of people, who were now yelling and spitting on him.
Eventually, tensions rose so high that someone punched him, hard, busting his lip. As he left, the crowd trailed behind. Helping to escort the man out of the protest zone was Baghat Singh, a senior political science major at UF.
“People started pushing (the Nazi) and the crowd started moving, I was right beside him. I was talking to him like ‘C’mon dude I don’t agree with you, you don’t have to like me, but I don’t want you to get hurt. I want you to leave please.’ He just smiled and called me a racist slur,” Singh said.
Singh said the man showed up, walked through the crowd, and called people “n—ers, sandn—ers, towelheads and racist slurs in Hebrew.
“He was saying propaganda and trying to pick a fight. Some people tried to reason with him, but these people don’t know what they’re dealing with. This man is coming from a standpoint of fabricated history,” Singh said.
On Thursday, a crowd of 2,500 protesters gathered outside the Curtis M. Phillips Center at the University of Florida to protest a speech by white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute (NPI).
Leading up to the event, the university spent close to $600,000 on security measures, and Alachua County was placed under a state of emergency by Governor Rick Scott.
Spencer has advocated for a white ethnostate and legal access to abortion because he believes it would decrease the amount of black and Hispanic people. He opposes same-sex marriage, wanting women to return to more traditional roles, according to an interview with The Washington Post.
UF initially turned down Spencer’s application to speak in mid-August over what it deemed concerns about violence, not over Spencer’s rhetoric. When Spencer hired lawyers and threatened to sue UF, the university said it would try to accommodate him for a later date.
“I’ll be honest I don’t like Nazis,” Singh said. “I don’t think they should be allowed to walk around and spread their hatred, endanger people and I’m appalled the state hasn’t called them a terrorist yet.”
“When someone comes up and says we deserve to die, (it’s like) we are not even human to them. Love trumps hate, but when you’re dealing with a fascist, they’re not there to engage in conversation with you. There’s no discourse.”
The university became a mini police state with roads blocked off, troopers posted around every building and snipers on roofs of buildings in the surrounding area.
“We went and talked to the police and asked them to do something (about the Nazi in the crowd), but one officer told my friend ‘I’m sorry we are not authorized to do it.’ They were only there to ensure us hooligans didn’t jump over the fence and rush the (Phillips Center),” Singh said.
To Singh, it felt like the university enabled Spencer to speak and have a platform despite claims by university president W. Kent Fuchs that the university did not agree with Spencer or his ideology.
The university locked the doors to the bathroom and shut off the water fountains on the east side of the UF recreation center. Therefore, protesters were denied water, food and access to bathrooms.
Singh was tired of the messages Fuchs and others tried to send by urging everyone to stay home.
He said that the protestors goal from the beginning was to come together in solidarity to peacefully use their right to free speech.
“(Fascist) ideas and hate are not welcome here,” Singh said. “We are totally disappointed by the city and by the school who paid $600,000 to protect a Nazi.”
Florida congressman Ted Yoho released a statement Monday Oct. 16 equating all the protester groups to “antifa (short for anti fascist action)” saying they’re all violent.
Yoho called the NPI a misleadingly named hate group and “antifa” a group comprised of radical anarchists and marxists that advocate for violence and chaos. Yoho said that “antifa” was calling on their members to come and protest suggesting the whole crowd of protesters would be comprised of violent people.
Singh disagrees and thinks Yoho’s comments on the protests were off-base.
“He said us protesters were like ‘antifa.’ That is another red scare tactic. Apparently, anyone who shows up or opposes a fascist is a part of ‘antifa.’ He basically said what Trump said, that the people who are standing up to protect themselves, our families and other people of color are equal to the Nazis.
“Our target was to not have a Charlottesville,” Singh said, “We wanted a Boston. In Charlottesville, they had the tiki marches, people got hurt and it empowered them. In Boston, 300 (white supremacists) faced about 8,000 protesters. They got scared, they ran away and as an effect, 33 white supremacist speeches and rallies got canceled all over the U.S. That was our target.”
Singh said that what Spencer spreads is hateful propaganda and being complicit only harms the marginalized groups that Spencer disapproves of.
Over the years the world has watched extremists rise to power. In 1922 there was Benito Mussolini, in 1933 there was Adolf Hitler and in 1939 there was Francisco Franco.
“One common factor throughout these things: People ignored them. You need to do something about it, you need to actively come in. You just don’t give a fascist a platform,” Singh said.
He was excited with the lack of violence and the turnout of veterans, students and faculty of the university among others, claiming it to be a win for every group white supremacists are hateful toward.
“I think we sent a message loud and clear that Nazism is not welcome at our university. Sometimes you have to organize and get people together, whatever it takes to protect the people that have been exploited,” Singh said.
“That was the beauty of it. I’m proud to say what happened in Gainesville was everyone showing up, sending a message that with all of us united there is power in numbers.”
Information from the Tampa Bay Times was used in this report.
Pictured Above: Julius Long (left) and UF student Baghat Singh (right) escorts Randy Furniss, a white supremacist, out of the protest area Thursday. Furniss, who was yelling racial slurs, was spat on and punched by an unknown protester. Jonah Hinebaugh | The Crow’s Nest