White nationalist rally, counter protest planned at Texas A&M on Sept. 11
As the nation watched tension between white nationalists and counter protestors turn violent Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, worries began to emerge that the discord would come to a Texas college town next.
Preston Wiginton, a Texan with deep ties to white nationalist movements, announced Saturday afternoon that he plans to host a “White Lives Matter” rally next month on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. At the top of a press release announcing the event, he declared “TODAY CHARLOTTESVILLE TOMORROW TEXAS A&M.”
Word of the planned rally, which Wiginton said will take place on Sept. 11, generated immediate outrage on social media. Within hours, a counter protest had been planned. That event will be called “BTHO Hate,” the name of which borrows from an A&M football chant expressing the desire to “beat the hell outta” the opposing team.
The organizer of that protest said the event would be nonviolent, and was organized to “demonstrate that members of the Aggie community do not support the hateful bigotry espoused by Wiginton and the planned speakers.”
“White supremacists keep coming to our campus thinking we’re going to support them,” said Adam Key, a doctoral student at A&M and the organizer of the counter protest. “Just like the last time they showed up, we want to demonstrate as clearly as we can that their ideas are not welcome here.”
The last time was in December, when Wiginton hosted Richard Spencer, a leader of the white nationalist movement known as the alt-right. About 400 people attended Spencer’s speech, and the night seemed constantly on the brink of boiling over. Spencer's talk was interrupted repeatedly with shouting, pushing and shoving among people in the crowd.
Outside, thousands of people protested, leading the Texas Department of Public Safety to clear A&M’s Memorial Student Center out of safety concerns. Meanwhile, A&M held its own simultaneous concert event at its football stadium across the street.
“We hoped that December was the last time we would have to protest them,” Key said. “Aggies started fighting Nazis in World War II. We have no plans to stop any time soon.”
The planned sight for Wiginton's rally is a fountain named after famous Aggie Gen. James Earl Rudder, who led a group of Army Rangers up 100-foot cliffs to topple Nazi gun barracks during the D-Day invasion.
Wiginton, who briefly attended A&M and has organized several white nationalist events at the school, said in his press release that he has invited Spencer back to College Station for the September event. There will be other speakers and a DJ, too, he said. The focus, he said, will be to protest “the liberal agenda of White Guilt and white genocide that is taught at most all universities in America.” There will also protests against specific A&M professors.
“Various groups throughout the country concerned with the political status of whites in America will be attending as well,” he wrote.
Details for the counter event were less specific. Key said participants will try to get as close to Wiginton’s event as possible. On Facebook, organizers proposed forming a “maroon wall” of students to block Wiginton’s message from the general public. A&M students used a similar strategy when the infamous Westboro Baptist Church protested a military funeral in College Station in 2012.
A&M hasn’t officially responded to the protest plans.
Disclosure: Texas A&M has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.