Texas A&M abruptly cancels planned white nationalist rally
August 14, 2017
Austin, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M University late Monday abruptly canceled a planned white supremacist rally on its campus next month, amid bipartisan pressure from state lawmakers who said hatred should be rejected in all forms — despite First Amendment protections.
An announcement on the House floor by Republican Rep. John Raney said A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp had opted to scuttle the event set for Sept. 11 because of concerns police would be stretched thin providing security. The A&M System confirmed the cancellation and was working on a statement.
A former A&M student named Preston Wiginton had been organizing a "white lives matter" rally in College Station, Texas, saying he was inspired by Saturday's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a vehicle plowed into a group of counterprotesters, killing at least one and injuring 19.
Wiginton said he'd invited prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer to address the Texas rally. Spencer spoke at an A&M event in December, when he was met by hundreds of protesters, many of whom gathered at Kyle Field football stadium to hear music and speeches highlighting diversity and unity to counter Spencer's appearance.
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 chammber 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.
Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Republican whose district includes College Station, has said he had planned to attend a counter protest of the A&M rally.
Although the group may be allowed to meet on campus, Schwertner said, "The First Amendment also allows us to respond in kind, to stand up and say what we believe as a society, as Americans and as Texans. We should not stand for bigotry, for violence, for racism."
Sen. Royce West, a Dallas Democrat who is black, said he'll also go to the Texas A&M campus on Sept. 11.
"We will do everything in our power to make sure those days gone by will not be repeated. I'm confident they won't be," he said, recalling the Jim Crow-era of segregation and discrimination. "We will stand strong against those hate groups, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan."
West added: "My 17-year-old grandson asked me yesterday, 'Should my generation be more like Martin Luther King or Malcom X? I had to pause and listen to the hurt in his voice and doubt in his ability to pursue the American dream. I didn't answer the question ... That's where we are in America today.'"
Eds: Associated Press writers Jim Vertuno and Paul J. Weber in Austin and David Warren in Dallas contributed to this report.