Torchlight parade canceled in response to Charlottesville violence

London Gibson

A 30-year tradition comes to a halt this week, as Texas Exes called off the annual torchlight parade portion of Wednesday’s Texas Fight Rally following the mid-August violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Texas Exes, which organizes the event, decided the procession of torches this year would recall the night white nationalists, armed with similar torches, marched through the UVA campus to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. That weekend, one woman was killed when a car drove through a group of counter-protesters, and two Virginia State Police troopers died in a helicopter crash while assisting public safety efforts.

“In light of the tragic events in Charlottesville, we will not be doing a torchlight parade,” Texas Exes said in a statement published on Monday. “This night has always been a positive experience for the UT community, and it is paramount to us that everyone feels welcome, safe and part of the
Longhorn family.”

As UVA grieves in the aftermath of the deadly event, UT student body vice president Micky Wolf said the image of the torchlight parade — although unrelated to the events in Charlottesville — is unwelcome on the UT campus. 

“Right now in 2017, torches and masses of people walking around college campuses is very much an iconography that is associated with white supremacy, and that is something that we would never want to be mistaken as being supported at this University,” Wolf said. 

The Texas Fight Rally has been an annual event on campus since 1916. KXAN reported that the organization will revisit whether to reinstate the torchlight parade at a later date, but it cannot be concluded yet whether the tradition is over for good. The rest of the rally will continue as planned with a small procession of student groups, a performance by the Longhorn Band and remarks from speakers such as UT football coach Tom Herman.

Social work junior Charmaine Lee said she supports the cancellation of the parade. She said safety should be a primary concern in the wake of recent violent attacks in the country, such as what happened in Charlottesville and last weekend’s Las Vegas shooting. 

“I think all these things are becoming more prominent, and I guess people are just trying their best to be as safe as possible,” Lee said. “Tradition is important, but safety is above all.”

Wolf, a Plan II and business honors senior, said Student Government stands behind the Texas Exes’ decision to
cancel the parade. 

“It is important that our traditions are traditions that we maintain, but that we also maintain them in an inclusive way and a way that is welcoming to all students,” Wolf said. “While we are saddened to see this one part of the tradition go away, it doesn’t change the fact that we support this decision.”