COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M University community responded with protests and an event promoting unity to white nationalist Richard Spencer speaking on campus Tuesday night.
The protests outside of the Memorial Student Center, where Spencer was speaking, were met by police in riot gear. One hundred yards away inside Kyle Field, the University sponsored an event promoting diversity called Aggies United.
Texas A&M Student Body President Hannah Wimberly spoke at Aggies United, saying she would refuse to acknowledge Spencer by name as the reason for the event being organized.
“What we will do is thank them for raising our consciousness towards the collective on our Texas A&M University campus,” Wimberly said.
Spencer is credited with creating the term “alt-right” and was invited to speak on Texas A&M’s campus by former student Preston Wigington. Throughout Spencer’s speech inside the student center, he spoke on the need for the white race to regain control of America.
“At the end of the day, America belongs to white men,” Spencer said during his speech.
Spencer’s speech at the student center could not be cancelled because of the school’s status as a public university, Texas A&M officials said. Texas A&M President Michael Young denounced Spencer prior to him speaking.
“Neighbors, friends, family, community, all gathered here tonight in Kyle Field – we’re all so beautifully different,” Young said while addressing the crowd at Aggies United. “Our differences make us more complete… As for me, I know of no god who sees us in races, and that’s wonderful because it makes us the same.”
The protests next to Kyle Field drew people from universities across Texas, including UT-Austin, and lasted until at least 9:30 p.m.
A 2016 UT School of Social Work graduate, who refused to provide her name, said she and a group of UT students drove to College Station to “smash fascism and ensure there is not platform for racists” on a Texas college campus.
Other protesters who identified themselves as UT students refused an interview when approached by The Daily Texan staff.
Next to the protest outside of the student center, about 10 people gathered in support of Spencer’s speech. Only one of them identified himself as a student.
Joseph Brown, a self-described white nationalist from Plantersville, Texas who is not a Texas A&M student, said he believes the United States has declined during the past 20 years and blamed President Barack Obama’s policies for some of that decline.
“I do believe whites are probably the most responsible group in the world to make this country great, and the more that diminishes, the worse the country is,” Brown said. “You have to have a really strong white population to keep this country great.”
Protesters and supporters of Spencer clashed on several occasions, forcing police to intervene. At one point, protesters stormed the student center where Spencer was speaking before being forced out of the building by police in riot gear.
Blake White, Texas A&M political science junior, attended Aggies United because he wanted to send a message against Spencer without being involved with the conflict seen at the protests.
“Our university and the majority of our student body doesn’t represent what [Spencer] is here for,” White said. “Although I don’t share his same thoughts, he does have the ability to speak here, so I would rather show love here, and in some cases, protests can spew back, which is not what Aggies United or the university is about.”
An hour after the protests ended, the Texas A&M community quietly gathered in the cold for Silver Taps, a 100-year tradition honoring students who lost their lives within the past month.
“We’re still able to come together and honor the student that passed away even though we had just had these protests,” said Blair Evans, a Texas A&M animal science sophomore. “When it comes down to it, the person we’re standing for in Academic Plaza matters more to us than anything else.”
Forrest Milburn also contributed to this report.