On Saturday, members of the media received a press release titled: “Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A&M.” The message came from a group organizing a White Lives Matter rally featuring white nationalist Richard Spencer, scheduled to take place on September 11th at the Texas university. There's plenty of outrage on social media, and a counter-protest has already been planned.
Adam Key, an organizer of BTHO Hate, says the counter-protest will be non-violent and is meant to challenge the hateful and bigoted ideology perpetuated by Spencer.
Indeed, Key organized another protest to a Spencer event last December on campus, but says protesters weren’t allowed into the Memorial Student Center where he was speaking.
“The goal of our protest was not to get in and disrupt his event. …We simply wanted to use our free speech to collectively represent our opposition to his ideas,” he says.
Even in the midst of events like Charlottesville, when the stakes seem highest for opposition groups like BTHO Hate, Key says peaceful protest is the most important thing to do.
“I understand that people are afraid after Charlottesville…but simultaneously, if we don’t speak up because we’re afraid, then they’ve already won,” he says.
But there was violence in Charlottesville: A driver plowed through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring dozens. Some are criticizing the police for not doing enough to prevent physical clashes, but Key says he’s confident the same thing won’t happen at A&M.
“I have great faith in the great men and women of the university police department. …I expect just like December, we’ll have state troopers there and I believe the FBI was there last time as well,” he says.
For good measure, BTHO Hate’s protest will take place at a distance from the Spencer event. And there will be what he calls a “maroon wall,” or a human barrier, that will obscure onlookers’ view of the white lives matter rally.
“Our goal is to have the two be separate things, to discourage the type of physical interaction that happened in Charlottesville,” Key says.
Whatever BTHO Hate does to prevent violence, the Spencer event and counter-protest will likely draw extensive media attention, which could fuel tensions. Key is aware of that possibility, but says it’s still important his group speaks up to promote inclusivity, especially because of A&M’s historical exclusion of black students.
“It’s incredibly important as Aggies that we stand up and express that our campus welcomes all races, creeds, colors, religions and sexual orientations. But the one thing we don’t welcome is hatred and intolerance. By remaining silent, we basically do nothing and we allow evil to go on,” he says.
Written by Caroline Covington.