Camila Domonoske, NPR, August 15, 2017
A “White Lives Matter” rally scheduled at Texas A&M University for Sept. 11 has been called off over “risks of threat to life and safety,” the school says.
The white nationalist rally, organized by former Texas A&M student Preston Wiginton, was not sponsored by any campus organizations, the university says. But the university, which is required to observe First Amendment rights, had allowed Wiginton to reserve space in a public area on campus.
It wasn’t the first such event. In December, Wiginton brought white separatist Richard Spencer to speak at the campus in a rally at which counterprotesters greatly outnumbered white supremacists.
Wiginton said he would bring Spencer back on Sept. 11 for an all-day rally. The university denied him access to buildings, under a new policy requiring a student sponsor for facility reservations, so he scheduled the event in a plaza on campus. He promoted the rally with a press release titled “Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A&M,” the university says.
“Linking the tragedy of Charlottesville with the Texas A&M event creates a major security risk on our campus,” the university said in its statement. “Additionally, the daylong event would provide disruption to our class schedules and to student, faculty and staff movement (both bus system and pedestrian).”
Before the cancellation was announced, students at the university were already planning a counterprotest called “BTHO Hate” (that is, “beat the hell outta hate”).
Texas legislators had put bipartisan pressure on the school administration to denounce or cancel the event, Houston Public Media reports:
Word of the cancellation came hours after Dallas Democratic Rep. Helen Giddings gave a House floor speech while nearly all of the chamber’s 150 members stood beside her. She urged university administrators to ‘unequivocally denounce and fight against this violent group’ adding ‘all of us in the state of Texas want to say with one voice, Texas will not stand for hate.’
Rep. Paul Workman, an Austin Republican, added that a petition being circulated for A&M graduates in the House was attempting to ‘keep this from happening on our campus.’ The chamber then held a moment of silence for victims killed and injured in Charlottesville.
Similar sentiments came from the Texas Senate, which also held its own moment of silence.