Man loading a gun Zoom bombs UT student org teach-in about racist history of ‘The Eyes of Texas’

Skye Seipp

Trigger Warning: This article contains discussions of gun violence and racist threats

A man loading a gun crashed an online meeting hosted by the service organization Texas Orange Jackets discussing the origins of “The Eyes of Texas” on April 29. Members said the violent incident reveals the situation with UT’s alma mater is “higher stakes” than some may think.

Irene Ameena, Orange Jackets scholarships director, said the meeting, which was open to the public, was held to allow history professor Alberto Martínez to discuss his report on the song’s racist origins. Ameena said the event is part of the organization’s efforts to be accountable about upholding the song in the past, which Orange Jackets now “unequivocally condemns” because of the song’s racist history. 

Orange Jackets decided last year to stop singing the song at football games, Ameena said. The group stopped singing the song at meetings in 2017 after the organization began having conversations about how members of color were uncomfortable with the song, said Ameena, a co-moderator of the April 29 meeting. 

Ameena said the gun incident happened about 30 to 40 minutes into the meeting, which lasted a little over an hour. She said another co-host texted her that the person had a gun and they removed him. A screenshot of the incident showed the person’s display name on Zoom said “Henry Vigorito,” and the man  wearing a rainbow bandana and black beanie while loading a gun.

The screen was pinned on Martínez, so most attendees likely didn’t see what happened, Ameena said. But she said she informed attendees of what happened after the meeting. 

“Given the sensitive nature of the matter discussed on this call, we believe this was a targeted incident,” said a statement posted on the Texas Orange Jackets facebook page. “We unequivocally condemn the racism and violence that have been brought up in conversations about this song and again call on the university to remove the ‘Eyes of Texas’ as the official school song of the University.”

Ameena said her co-moderators were shaken up by the incident. 

“Something that incites this kind of violence or this kind of response we get is really terrifying and shows the gravity of the situation, and the lengths to which people will go to protect a song,” Ameena said. “This is clearly intended to be some kind of threat (and) just shows that the situation is scary and is clearly higher stakes than people might think it is.” 

Ameena said she reported the incident to Zoom and the UT Office of Equity and Inclusion. Martínez said he reported the incident to the UT Police Department after receiving a screenshot.

Eliska Padilla, University issues and communications manager, confirmed the incident was reported to UTPD and the Office of Equity and Inclusion. 

When asked what the repercussions were if the perpetrator was a student, Padilla said in an email that she “can’t entertain hypothetical questions.” 

Padilla declined to comment about possible charges for the perpetrator, how UT would ensure students protesting the song are kept safe and on the traumatic nature of the event. She said in an email “we have nothing to add at this time.” 

Two weeks after the University released its report that said the alma mater was “not overtly racist,” Martínez published a contrary report with evidence the song was written for a minstrel show and was inspired by Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Martinez released another report May 1 detailing 100 reasons why the song should not be the alma mater. 

This incident marks another instance of threats against student activists for demanding the song’s removal as UT’s alma mater. 

Junior UT football player DeMarvion Overshown tweeted on March 1 that he received death threats after players put out a statement for the song to be removed. 

Zion James, an African and African Diaspora Studies and sociology sophomore, tweeted that he received a racist message on Facebook that said “don’t fuck with the eyes of Texas,” after James joined members of the Black Caucus, Texas NAACP and other students denouncing UT’s continued use of the song during a March 29 press conference at the Texas State Capitol

Judson Hayden, the president of LHBlacks, Longhorn Band’s Black student organization, said in April that he received threatening messages, including one that said “It should have been you that was injured or hurt or killed at the Austin protest” last summer, after going on FOX 7 Austin in August to discuss how some Longhorn Band members refused to play the song. 

“Most of the people who are making those kinds of comments, they don’t actually have a stake in UT or in the Longhorn Band,” said Hayden, a communication and leadership junior. “They’re just people who think that they are owed something by the university, that they’re owed an experience and they’re not. And so I don’t pay that much attention to it.”