The Neo-Nazi Protest That Wasn’t

Only four people showed up to protest the University of North Florida for suspending an avowed white nationalist student.

November 21, 2017
 

Ken Parker was suspended from the University of North Florida Nov. 14, but the swastika-tattooed former KKK leader was back on campus Monday to appeal the institution’s decision, bringing with him fears of protesters rallying around his cause.

Only four protesters showed up, outnumbered by some 50 to 80 counterprotesters, as estimated by the university and local media.

Parker, 37, is a student at UNF. He posted a photo of himself on social media last week, holding a gun, expressing in the caption that if anyone from the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society chapter aimed to challenge him, he would “shut them down.” Many white supremacists attending public institutions have had the expression of their views protected under the First Amendment, though UNF officials said that the combination of the gun and the caption constituted a threat, which was why Parker was suspended.

He also made comments against the Black Lives Matter movement on social media, writing, "It's OK to be white!" and "WHITE and PROUD."

Although the university expressed confidence last week that the number of protesters would be small, the appeal hearing was moved to a building farther from the center of campus as a precaution, and announced it was cooperating with the Jacksonville sheriff’s office for increased security.

There was talk of canceling classes for the day, but it was ultimately decided that they would continue as previously scheduled.

“The University Police Department did a terrific job in coordinating with the Jacksonville sheriff’s office in a display of police presence, including police patrols in the core of campus,” President John Delaney said in a statement Monday. “I would like to thank both departments for their professionalism.”

The appeal hearing was held Monday morning, though a decision on whether Parker would remain suspended did not come about by that evening. A decision is expected sometime today.

In a statement issued Friday, Delaney sympathized with students and faculty who found the situation upsetting.

“I understand the situation is upsetting and frightening to many students, faculty, staff and parents,” he said. “In fact, all of the vice presidents and I have been responding to students, parents, staff and faculty, and the pain as well as the fear is palpable and actually emotionally draining to witness. I wish I had a magic wand that could address all of that and could solve the historic problems of racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, etc. I really wish that we could take away the pain and fear.”

Delaney echoed that law enforcement asked him to request that there wouldn’t be a counterprotest -- a strategy that many colleges have tried, though not always successfully, in an effort to keep students safe and avoid physical altercations -- though he acknowledged that there were plans underway for just that. The counterprotests Monday were peaceful.

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