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UF and Alachua County Sheriff ramp up security ahead of Richard Spencer's speech

Photo: Officers at UF in preparation for Richard Spencer speech Source: WEAR Digital Content Team

Tensions are high on the University of Florida campus leading up to white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech on Thursday.

The speech will be held at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County on Monday in preparation for the event.

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell asked for the declaration to free up additional state, county, and local resources.

This comes in the wake of the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.

The university has rented nearly a mile's worth of steel barricades.

It doesn't include plastic ones that are seen around the Phillips Center.

Students said they'd rather see the extra security than what happened in Charlottesville.

Law enforcement is taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of both event attendees and protesters.

For instance, surveillance cameras are mounted on rooftops.

The Florida Highway Patrol also marches side-by-side flexing its manpower around the center.

Peter Uceta, a UF student said, "From what I know a lot of students aren't trying to come to school tomorrow especially us who are minority so we're trying to avoid getting caught in anything that's going to put us at risk but I know a lot of students are going to go protest for sure."

The speech has drawn criticism and sparked fear in the community.

Dmitrii Nikiforov is an international student from Russia.

He said, "If we give attention to those kind of people that's actually what they want. If everybody keeps talking about this that means more people are going to know about this and maybe more people are going to join."

Sergeant Chris Sims, public information officer for the Alachua County Sheriff's Office said people immediately became very fearful after the declaration of emergency.

"We want our community to understand that there is no need to be afraid," Sgt. Sims said.

This is the first time Governor Scott has issued a state of emergency because of an event.

The declaration helps create a plan and opens up resources.

"We have taken that learned approach and that learned approach came out of very similar speeches, Charlottesville, Virginia; Berkeley, California," Sgt. Sims said. "We see that even with a plan those instances erupted in violence."

It's violence everyone hopes is avoided by law enforcement's presence and the security measures set in place.

Sgt. Sims said, "We would much rather have the plan and not need it then need a plan and not have it. We're here. We're here to protect the rights of all Americans as well the rights of protests but again we will not stand for violence.

In addition, Nikiforov said, "If nobody comes to the rally, if nobody comes to his speech, if nobody comes to the protest; he's not going to be famous anymore. Nobody is going care."

The Alachua County Sheriff's office expects multiple road closures leading up to Spencer's speech.

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