by Ashley Ngyuen, Coordinator, Alachua County Labor Coalition
On Oct. 10, hundreds of University of Florida students, staff, faculty, and local residents gathered in Turlington Plaza, fueled by anger and ready to drown out voices of hate.
The University’s ACCENT Speakers Bureau, an organization tasked with bringing speakers to campus using student fees, had paid Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle $50,000 for their appearance in the University Auditorium. Students and members of the community were outraged that student fees were used to fund, what was essentially, a political campaign stop for the Donald Trump 2020 presidential run.
UF has allowed a facile “free speech” argument to overpower the actual stakes of this issue: Which speakers will UF endorse, support, and protect? We have seen, from Ben Shapiro to Richard Spencer, that the University will sidestep student concerns about safety in order to accommodate people who present racism, classism, and hatred in a charitable light.
The protest would not have been possible without the essential coalitional work of No Nazis at UF, the Alachua County Labor Coalition, Young Democratic Socialists of America at UF, and other various members and groups in the community.
Collectively, these groups have demanded several actions from the university as a result of the Donald Trump Jr. debacle, including the defunding and disbanding of ACCENT, resignations from both Kent Fuchs and Michael Murphy, UF Student Government President, for enabling right-wing threats on campus, and protection of marginalized student groups from the hatred and violence of the Donald Trump administration and right-wing agitators without any increase in police presence.