COLLEGE STATION, Texas – After the violence that erupted during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, Texas A&M University has decided to cancel a similar upcoming event, according to a press release from Texas A&M Today, the university’s newspaper, released Monday.
The event was scheduled by Preston Wiginton and was anticipated to be held at Rudder Plaza on the university’s campus on September 11. However, it has been canceled due to “concerns about the safety of its students, faculty, staff and the public.”
In December 2016, the university changed its policy so no outside individual or group would be able to reserve campus facilities without the sponsorship of a university-sanctioned group.
Since none of the campus organizations invited Wiginton or agreed to sponsor his events in December or the upcoming September 11 event, Wiginton planned his event outdoors in the middle of a school day and sent a notification to the media with the headline “Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A&M.”
The Texas Tribune describes Wiginton as “a Texan with deep ties to white nationalist movements.” He intended to host a “White Lives Matter Rally” on Texas A&M’s campus later this year and confirmed infamous white nationalist Richard Spencer as a guest. Wiginton brought Spencer to the campus’ Memorial Student Center in December 2016, where he spoke to about 400 people.
Within hours of Wiginton’s initial announcement, a counterprotest called “BTHO Hate” – named after an A&M football chant where players aimed to “beat the hell outta” the opposing team – was planned.
The publication cited the violence in Charlottesville as the main reason for canceling the event:
Texas A&M’s support of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech cannot be questioned. On December 6, 2016 the university and law enforcement allowed the same speaker the opportunity to share his views, taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure a peaceful event. However, in this case, circumstances and information relating to the event have changed and the risks of threat to life and safety compel us to cancel the event.
Finally, the thoughts and prayers of Aggies here on campus and around the world are with those individuals affected by the tragedy in Charlottesville.