Christie: No surprise Spencer speech at UF raising safety concerns

White Nationalist leader Richard Spence speaks at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday ahead of Spencer’s planned speech at the University of Florida. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

I hate to say we told you so… but we told you so.

Back in August, the Post Editorial Board sided with University of Florida President Kent Fuchs when he denied a request by white supremacist leader Richard Spencer to use a university facility for a speech.

RELATED: Editorial: UF made the right call denying ‘alt-right’ leader’s rally

It was a tough call given the editorial board’s strong stance in support of free speech. But at that time, the safety and security of UF’s student population outweighed the heavy principles ensconced in the First Amendment.

We were just coming off the terrible tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., where a 34-year-old woman was mowed down and killed by a neo-Nazi sympathizer as she counter-protested against Spencer and his cohort on the University of Virginia campus.

In this Aug. 12 photo, DeAndre Harris, bottom is assaulted in a parking garage beside the Charlottesville police station after a white nationalist rally was disbursed by police, in Charlottesville, Va. Harris turned himself into police after being charged in the incident. Charlottesville police said in a statement that Harris turned himself on Oct. 12, and was served a warrant charging him with unlawful wounding. (Zach D. Roberts via AP)

And in Charlottesville, Spencer’s group was chanting things like, “The South will rise again” and “Russia is our friend.”

It was just too soon.

We welcomed a lawsuit that was eventually filed by Spencer’s group to hold the rally. After consulting with them, UF acquiesced — as expected, and as it should. Surely, enough time had passed that the tensions wrought by Charlottesville would have calmed down. The rally was on.

But on Monday came news that Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Alachua County ahead of Thursday’s planned event at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Scott declared the state of emergency in UF’s home county, noting that Spencer’s speeches in other states have in the past “sparked protests and counter-protests resulting in episodes of violence, civil unrest and multiple arrests.”

RELATED: State of emergency declared ahead of UF white nationalist speech

“I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent,” Scott said in a seven-page executive order.

Although Scott, in a statement, said he supports everyone’s right to voice their opinions, “we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority.”

Hmmm… sound familiar?

“I have been in constant contact with Sheriff [Sadie] Darnell who has requested this Executive Order to ensure that county and local law enforcement have every needed resource,” Scott said in the statement, adding that the order is an additional step to ensure that “the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe.”

Gainesville, Fla. — University of Florida officials are planning to spend at least $500,000 for heightened security for a Thursday speech by white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. (DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun)

Indeed, UF is expecting to spend upwards of $500,000 for beefed-up security for the event. The university said it will charge “allowable” costs of $10,564 to the Spencer-led National Policy Institute to rent the Phillips Center and for security inside the venue.

And as a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, the university set up a webpage providing detailed information about the event — and saying the school’s decision was based on First Amendment grounds.

“As a state entity, UF must allow the free expression of speech,” the university webpage said. “We cannot prohibit groups or individuals from speaking in our public forums except for limited exceptions, which include safety and security. Our decision to disallow the September event was based on specific threats and a date that fell soon after the Charlottesville event. Allowing Spencer to speak in October provided additional time to make significant security arrangements.”

“We understand that this event and possible protest provokes fear, especially for members of our Gator family who are targets of messages of hate and violence simply because of their skin color, religion, culture, sexual orientation or beliefs,” the webpage said. “Faculty have been asked to be understanding with students on a case-by-case basis. However, faculty should not cancel classes without consulting with their dean.”

The university also indicated it is preparing for protesters.

“Protesters are expected to assemble near the Phillips Center, but we will have security across campus and in the community,” the webpage said. “Law enforcement will closely monitor groups marching into other areas of campus. The safety of our campus and community is our top priority.”

Yep… told ya.

Goodman: With DACA decision, Trump sells out American Dream to pander to his base

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces “wind down” of a program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Signaling sympathies to white supremacists in Charlottesville. Pardoning Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And now ending the DACA program.

In the space of a few weeks, President Donald Trump has turned the federal government — for at least 50 years the protector of civil rights for vulnerable, maligned minorities — into an instrument for the very opposite.

Today’s announcement that he is rescinding the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has offered protections for nearly 800,000 young immigrants who were brought here as children with no intent of their own — including nearly 40,000 in Florida — is arguably the worst.

As Jennifer Rubin, the conservative writer of the Washington Post’s Right Turn blog put it:

Of all the actions Trump has taken, none has been as cruel, thoughtless or divisive as deporting hundreds of thousands of young people who’ve done nothing but go to school, work hard and present themselves to the government.

As if he didn’t have the nerve to face the public himself, Trump sent his attorney general, the former senator with the past of racist accusations against him, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions 3rd, to announce the decision. Sessions’ statement was filled with claptrap about restoring the rule of law and constitutional order after President Barack Obama’s “overreach” in signing the program into existence by executive order.

Trump’s DACA cancellation doesn’t get fully implemented for six months, supposedly to give Congress time to come up with a legislative solution: a way for Dreamers to earn their right to stay here as legal citizens. Fat chance of that. It was because Congress failed so many times to grapple with the complications of illegal immigration that Obama finally decided to act: If he couldn’t solve every issue, at least he could help the most innocent of the people caught between two worlds.

Diego Rios, 23, of Rockville, Md., rallies in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, outside of the White House on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

About 70 percent of voters in most polls, Republicans and Democrats, back the DACA program, believing that Dreamers deserve sympathy and support. And why not? They are doing everything we expect of citizens. Ninety-one percent of Dreamers are working. They are projected to contribute $460.3 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade — that is, if they aren’t mindlessly kicked out of the country.

Even Trump has said, “We love the Dreamers…We think the Dreamers are terrific.”

But Trump loves the crowds at his rallies even more. Increasingly, he is defining himself as the president of his base  — a base burning with white grievance — not president of the United States.

A real president of the United States would know in his soul that we’re a nation based on an essential bedrock of inclusion. It’s in our motto: E pluribus unum.

Out of many, one.

Christie: Removing Confederate monuments is not erasing history

This is a view of the Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

There are more than 700 Confederate monuments in the U.S. — the vast majority in the South — according to the latest figures.

And there are many in Florida cities like Fort Myers, Gainesville, Jacksonville and yes, West Palm Beach. The latter is actually a private monument to Confederate soldiers in Woodlawn Cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the city.

Standing directly behind the American flag, a 10-foot tall marble monument is unmistakable when visitors drive through the front gate of Woodlawn. A Confederate flag is carved into the side with words honoring that army’s soldiers who are buried there. Early in her term, Mayor Jeri Muoio worked to remove all Confederate flags and symbols on city property, but the monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The city’s legal department has also been investigating if the city can tell the group to move the monument. But nothing yet.

This week, as the violent and tragic events of Charlottesville, Va., continue to dominate the news and political discussion — largely because of equivocal, ill-advised statements from President Donald J. Trump — the debate over whether these monuments should be taken down has once again heated up.

In fact, here are links to two opposing viewpoints in the Confederate monuments debate:

RELATED: Commentary: Confederate monuments about maintaining white supremacy

RELATED: Commentary: Why we need Confederate monuments

Overnight Tuesday, Baltimore took down four statues of Confederate monuments after it was ordered by the state’s Republican governor. And in Charlotte, N.C., protesters had pulled down a Confederate statue earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, the white nationalist groups behind the Charlottesville event have promised to have more rallies and demonstrations to preserve these monuments. Whether they will have further access to university campuses is another issue. This week, both Texas A&M University and the University of Florida denied Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute permission to speak on their respective campuses.

In the case of UF — full disclosure: my alma mater — President Kent Fuchs rightly denied the request to rent campus space to the “alt-right” movement leader “after assessing potential risks” campus, local, state and federal law enforcement officials.

Continued calls “online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: “The Next Battlefield is Florida’ ” also played a role in Wednesday’s decision, Fuchs said.

Confederate flag on large stone monument at Woodlawn Cemetery in West Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

In a July 31 blog post, I made note of this debate after various Palm Beach Post letter writers shared their views on either side of the debate.

RELATED: Christie: Should West Palm’s lone Confederate monument be removed?

Among the blog post’s 500-plus comments emerged the interesting question of whether by removing these monuments to the Confederacy from public lands, we are seeking to hide an ugly part of U.S. history.

Aside from the preponderance of expected racist opinions, there were many like the following that stimulated an interesting intellectual discussion:

— Only an idiot would want to destroy history. Leave the monument alone. — Jimmy Anderson

— Now it will be Confederate memorials demonstrating history; and next it will be what? Could be anything that offends a group of people. If we don’t acknowledge history, it will repeat itself. And a lot of it is not necessarily good; but hopefully we have learned from it … leave the memorials! — Mo Earle

— Leave our history alone. Tearing down monuments does nothing be cheat future generations out of history… American history. The good and the bad. — Gennifer Cseak

Agreed, but there’s no rule that says that “history” must remain in a specific public space. Many of these monuments are front of city halls, major parks and other taxpayer-funded places that are frequented by the people who would be most offended by them as vestiges of slavery.

As a compromise, these memorials should be removed and placed in a taxpayer-funded museum where people who want to view them and further study history can do so at their leisure. After all, you can’t find a monument to Nazism in an outdoor public space anywhere in Germany.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section.

Goodman: On opposing Trump on bigotry, Marco Rubio sets an example

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks to reporters as he walks toward the Senate floor on July 18 (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

I’m usually quick to slam Marco Rubio for a lack of spine, so it’s only fair to applaud him when he shows some.

On Wednesday, he became the first Republican member of the Senate to slam President Donald Trump, blazing on Twitter:

-@marcorubio: “The organizers of events which inspired & led to #charlottesvilleterroristattack are 100% to blame for a number of reasons. 1/6

 Rubio: “They are adherents of an evil ideology which argues certain people are inferior because of race, ethnicity or nation of origin. 2/6”

 Rubio: “When entire movement built on anger & hatred towards people different than you,it justifies & ultimately leads to violence against them 3/6”

 Rubio: “These groups today use SAME symbols & same arguments of #Nazi & #KKK, groups responsible for some of worst crimes against humanity ever 4/6”

 Rubio: “Mr. President,you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame.They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain 5/6”

 Rubio: “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected 6/6”

I particularly like Number 3.

To watch an American president all but side with armed, torch-bearing punks shouting Klan and neo-Nazi slogans was sickening. For many people in Palm Beach County, the home of his oh-so-precious Mar-a-Lago, this is personal.

This county has one of the densest Jewish populations in America. It’s been home for generations to many black people. It’s an important destination for immigrants from Haiti, Guatemala and other countries poor in political tolerance.

The Palm Beach Post editorial board warned about Donald Trump’s softness on bigotry as early as March 2016, during the primaries when there was still plenty of time for Republicans to repudiate the man and derail his candidacy. They didn’t.

And now this great nation is headed by a president who refuses to stand up for the most fundamental of American principles.

It is a time for everyone else — particularly other leaders — to do the standing up.

Be like Marco.