Flagler County Fire Rescue is sending two rescues–or ambulances–and crews totaling six paramedics, and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is sending 10 deputies and a sergeant to Gainesville as part of the public safety emergency Gov. Rick Scott declared in preparation for Thursday’s speech at the University of Florida featuring Richard Spencer, a white supremacist.
Scott declared the emergency earlier this week in an attempt to prevent the sort of out-of-control situation that developed in Charlottesville in August when white supremacists organized a march there. Spencer was among the organizers of the march and a featured speaker at the rally, texting a reporter well ahead of time to tip him off about what would become one of the more sinister scenes the night of Aug. 11: a torch-lit march by white nationalists chanting such things as “Jews will not replace us.”
The march led to clashes between supremacists and counter-protesters and killing of one of the counter-protesters when Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old Charlottesville resident, was killed after a driver rammed the counter-protesters. Two state troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke M.M. Bates, almost 41, were also killed when the surveillance helicopter they were flying in crashed.
In Gainesville, Sheriff Sadie Darnell is not taking chances, calling in mutual-aid help and welcoming the governor’s declaration.
“Before he even declared an emergency we were planning on going out there because Alachua County asked for mutual aid,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said. Now that it is a declared emergency, the deployment will be reimbursed. “If a private organization causes this kind of situation where they have to bring in more cops and more EMS personnel, they have to pay for that, so now that they made the emergency it’s going to be easier to charge them for it,” Petito said, suggesting that either the organizers of Spencer’s speech or the university will be billed through Alachua.
“There’ll be three people on each ambulance because they’ll have to function independently,” Petito said. The Flagler crews are part of a strike team of seven rescues from Flagler, St. Johns and Clay County, totaling 21 people. The response is organized through a statewide emergency response plan and its coordinators. Petito is Flagler’s coordinator.
Rescues 92, from the station at the Flagler County Airport, and Rescue 22, from the station on Clubhouse Drive in Palm Coast, will be heading to Gainesville. The ambulances will be replaced during the deployments with back-up rigs, with no drop in staffing. Those deployed volunteered to do so (they’re getting overtime pay).
“It’s heartwarming they want to do it, but I know we can do it with the training that these guys have,” Petito said. “We get called on a lot of different instances to go help with different things.” Two firefighters just returned from a deployment fighting forest fires in the west.
The initial deployment is for 12 hours. If serious issues develop, the paramedics can be held over for three days.
It’s a similar story from the Sheriff’s Office.
“All the Florida sheriffs, we all have a mutual aid agreement and when a sheriff calls needing assistance, we send what we can,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “So I worked with my staff. We felt we could send 10 deputies and a supervisor to assist Alachua county, and so that’s what we’re doing. Alachua county is handling the hotels, meals, and there is costs. Ultimately we’ll be reimbursed the cost” as far as personnel expenses are concerned.
The Sheriff’s Office has an emergency response team. Volunteers from that team were sought and will be sent Wednesday. “Our hope is that it’s a one-day event and everything goes quiet and smooth in Alachua County, and they come home Thursday after the event at the University of Florida,” Staly said. “If they need to stay longer they’re prepared to do that.” Staffing in Flagler will not change because of the deployment.
“It meas the sheriffs of Florida recognized the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office being a capable, well prepared law enforcement agency,” Staly said. “Any time your peers recognize that, it’s an honor. We worked hard in the last ten months to build a strong reputation and relationships across Florida with the other law enforcement agencies.” He said other agencies send help to Flagler all the time, whether it’s the St. Johns County Sheriff’s bomb or hazmat squads or Volusia County’s emergency helicopter. Flagler is never billed. “It’s just a partnership that we have, so to some degree this is us paying back our brother and sister agencies that help us,” the sheriff said.
The Florida National Guard is also being placed on stand-by as part of the emergency.
The commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said today authorities are prepared to handle people who commit or encourage violence, according to the News Service of Florida.
“I believe in the First Amendment rights that people have. I do expect people to be safe. I don’t condone any violence,” Scott said Tuesday. “I’m going to continue to work with law enforcement to make sure all Floridians are safe.”
More animated, Attorney General Pam Bondi said such precautions are needed for Spencer and his National Policy Institute.
“This guy is out there espousing violence and hatred and anger,” Bondi said. “If we know that he is going to be there doing that, it is our duty as a state, and I commend the governor for having the resources available on the front end before something happens.”
“Those who show up to exercise their constitutional rights under the First Amendment, they will have no issues,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen said Tuesday in an appearance before the Florida Cabinet. “Those who show up to engage in or encourage violence, they are going to have problems. We will be prepared to deal with those folks.”
“Obviously our hope is that nothing occurs and that Gainesville and Florida remain quiet,” Staly said. “It’s better to be prepared but if you need the resources you need them now, not hours later when things get out of control.”
Carol Fisher says
Prayers go with them. I’m sorry it has come to this, but I thank them for going. Hopefully it will all be for naught.
Sara Crewe says
Why didn’t the university cancel this event? All this event is doing is costing the taxpayer money and put in harms way these law enforcement officers. It should be cancelled.
Ann Corsitto says
Prayers to all! Be safe
In my opinion, this is not what the founding fathers had in mind with our freedom of speech. So sad!
sara we have this thing called free speech,they did attempt to cancel it but a lawyer for the speaker threatened to sue…
Carol Fisher says
This article explains the decision, Sara https://flaglerlive.com/113515/alachua-state-of-emergency/
silly white boy says
The violence will be started by antifa, blm, and other cimmunist groups. Yes the nazi has a right to free spedch but it will be the communist who start all the trouble.
Born and Raised Here says
State of Emergency requires aid and resources from other counties.
Let them beat the crap out of each other next time there is a speech no one will show up
I agree with Sara Crowe. You don’t have the right to create violence. Let them sue.
A waste of money
And we are paying for it !!!!!
Jack Howell says
I am a firm believer in our First Amendment rights. Spencer has a right to give his speech at a public venue..U of F. Sometimes a show of force can prevent violent outbreaks before they happen. That said, law enforcement’s role will be to quickly arrest, remove and contain those protesters that are readily seeking confrontation and failing to obey law enforcement’s commands.
I have first-hand experience in dealing with protests. Many years ago, as a young Marine Corps officer and Provost Marshal, I arrested two Catholic Priests leading a protest of anti-war activists who were attempting to disrupt Armed Forces Day activities aboard the base. By the way, the two Priests were the Berrigan brothers, who were part of the “Harrisburg Seven”. The show of force that met the 60,000 protesters, when they arrived at the main gate to the Air Station, caused many of the protesters to reevaluate what they were about to tangle with quickly. They decided to leave the protest. Those who stayed and were peaceful were allowed to demostrate. Those who began confrontation were arrested rapidly! Unfortunately, we did have to use force on some of them. Once my Marines engaged and made physical contact with the prosters, they quickly dispersed. They learned that we, U.S. Marines, were not going to put up with their nonsense.
Arrest ANYONE that breaks the law! Enforce THE LAW !!!
So sad. Just want to clarify something I read about the white supremacists the other day-they were chanting about support for Trump. My family and I are Trump supporters and in NO WAY do those people speak for me. They are haters and are not doing anything to bring this country together. I agree BlueJammers and many others on this post.
Prayers for all of you to stay safe and return home
Jack is right. have enough police there to immediately arrest ANY who start violence. As others have made mention the need of this is because of those who look to shut down FREE SPEECH. I do not agree with the “white Nationalists” NUT JOBS but have more concern over the other leftists who look to start violence.
layla don’t be so nieve-its the people that are afraid to let him speak that will start the violence for sure….
blm ,antifa and all the other lesftist’s with mental disorders will cause more problems than this mans words,shame that if they were smart enough they just wouldn’t give him the attention he is craving and just not show up.
a tiny manatee says
Congrats Jack, for breaking up a nonviolent war protest and personally arresting two members of a group that were unsuccessfully prosecuted by the nixon administration. Do you have any friends involved in Kent State?
Are we getting a little ahead of ourselves?
This Nazi may have the right to free speech. . . BUT we taxpayers should NOT be required to pay for the cost to create a secure bubble for his hatred of humanity! He should pay the costs associated with security!!!! Not we tax payers!!!
If people are stupid enough to show up let them defend themselves! They have been told to stay home, and if no one showed up to events like this speaker’s wouldn’t waste their time coming and doing speeches. Maybe a speech can be held in Chicago-I wonder how many would show up there. Just sayin
Jack Howell says
You missed the point of the post. We allowed all those who wanted to demonstrate peacefully to do so. But, not aboard the air station. Those who refused to comply, attempted entry to the air station, blocked traffic entering the air station, and began to get physical with us were arrested. I have zero regrets the way this was handled.