Counter-protesters supporting white nationalist Richard Spencer. (Florian Martin)
It’s been about one month since the presidential election, and we are still seeing the political divisions that it exposed. Last night, those differences were seen here in Texas as alt-right leader and White nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at Texas A&M University.
Spencer recently gained national attention when he used a Nazi salute to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory. He was invited to College Station by an alum who’s been known to invite controversial speakers to the school. Previous events didn’t get much attention. This time, the White nationalist leader drew a large crowd from across the state – and the vast majority came to protest him.
— Aimée Rodriguez (@RosalindaAimee) December 7, 2016
Hundreds of protesters were outside the student center as Spencer spoke to about 400 people inside. The speech lasted about 40 minutes, which was followed by a 90-minute Q&A session.
Counter-protesters are vastly outnumbered pic.twitter.com/9U3p2oWHYJ
— Florian Martin (@Florian_News887) December 6, 2016
All the time, the president of the National Policy Institute made his case for White nationalism.
“America, in the end, belongs to white men,” he said.
He got frequent applause from about two-dozen supporters, many of which were sporting red “Make America Great Again” hats— the same slogan used by President Elect Donald Trump. Trump has said he disavows the White nationalists.
Despite the inflammatory language, there were some attempts to have a reasonable discussion between protesters and Spencer’s supporters
Most of the audience rejected Spencer’s ideas.
On two occasions, police had to intervene to keep confrontations between supporters and protesters from escalating.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Spencer as an “academic racist” for the way he speaks and dresses. On Tuesday night, he kept the discussion mostly civil—but Spencer did hurl a few insults against those in the crowd who criticized him, or presented different views.
“She’s dancing. Perhaps she’ll lose some weight.”
— Chevall Pryce (@ChevallP) December 7, 2016
“Let’s cool down the autism a little bit.”
“You’re not even willing to go to the gym. Look how fat you are.”
Protesters didn’t hold back either and quite a few profanities were exchanged in between the questions and answers.
Hazzard McCree, who drove up from Houston to listen to Spencer’s speech, says it was good for Spencer to reach a young audience.
“You take a look at the people here and you see 19- to 23-year-old young individuals, a lot of them white. And these are the sort of people that he wants to get his message to,” McCree said.
One of those young people was Seth Hamilton, who said the message did not resonate with him.
“I think he really makes Trump supporters look horrible, because obviously Donald Trump doesn’t believe anything close to this Richard Spencer guy. And then he also makes white people look bad as a whole,” Hamilton said.
Kirbi Teague is a science major at Texas A&M. the African-American student said she’s disappointed that some of her fellow students support this kind of thinking. But at the same time, Teague feels reassured by the united front against Spencer.
“I’m so impressed with my White Aggies, like, I’m not even kidding. They rallied together and they had one of the biggest movements on campus to protest against Richard Spencer and I can honestly say that I’ve never been more proud to be an Aggie until I saw that,” she said.
— Aimée Rodriguez (@RosalindaAimee) December 6, 2016
Texas A&M officials explained — and experts agreed —there was little they could do to prevent the event from taking place on the campus of the public university.
Instead, officials organized a rival event at the football stadium, with music and speakers. The goal was to highlight diversity and inclusion.
– Florian Martin, Houston Public Media. This story originally appeared here.