Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) on Monday declared a state of emergency in Alachua County before a scheduled speech there by white nationalist Richard Spencer.
“I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent,” he said in a seven-page executive order, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
The Times reported that Spencer is scheduled to appear at the University of Florida in Gainesville this Thursday.
Scott heeded a request for assistance from Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell before the event.
“We don’t know what to expect, and we don’t know what kind of crowd numbers to expect,” Darnell said. “We all want this to be a non-event.”
“We all want it to go very peacefully,” she added. “But there is the potential for violence and widespread property damage.”
Scott has previously issued similar declarations before hurricanes and after major tragedies, but this is thought to be the first time he has taken such action before a planned event.
Monday’s order gives state agencies the power to suspend rules and regulations, including for purchasing, travel and personnel actions.
Darnell said that the order mainly makes resources available much faster than normal, adding it also includes the ability to impose curfews.
“As long as people are peacefully assembling, they’re not going to have any problems anywhere in Alachua County,” she said, noting she did not anticipate curfews would be necessary.
Spencer’s past advocacy for a “white ethno-state” has made him a controversial figure, with many detractors labeling him a racist.
The white nationalist’s earlier speeches have at times resulted in physical clashes between his supporters and critics.
Spencer was involved in the violence that erupted between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this year.
One person died during the chaos when a man drove a car into counter-protesters demonstrating against white nationalism.