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Protests against white nationalist Richard Spencer in Gainesville, Fla.

A man wearing a shirt with swastikas on it is punched by an unidentified member of the crowd near the site of a planned speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who popularized the term ‘alt-right’, at the University of Florida campus on Oct.19, 2017 in Gainesville, Fla. (Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Protests against white nationalist Richard Spencer in Gainesville, Fla.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Protesters chanting “Go home Nazis” sought to drown out the speech by a white nationalist at the University of Florida on Thursday, as the campus erected barricades and deployed hundreds of police officers to guard against unrest.

Richard Spencer’s event at the university in Gainesville, which prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency to prepare for possible violence, comes about two months after rallies by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to a deadly clash with counter-protesters.

The violence on Aug. 12 added fuel to a national debate on race, and Republican President Donald Trump came under fire for blaming both sides for the melee.

On Thursday, several hundred protesters marched outside a campus performing arts centre ahead of the speech there by Spencer, who heads the National Policy Institute, a nationalist think tank.

Amid heavy police presence, demonstrators taking part in the rally chanted “Stand up, fight back” and “Go home, Spencer.” A plane flew overhead with a sign that read “Love conquers hate! Love will prevail!”

A man hired as security for media was arrested for illegally carrying a firearm on campus, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office said.

Inside the venue, Spencer and protesters yelled at one another.

“I’m not going home,” Spencer said. “We are stronger than you and you all know it!” (Reuters)

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