Alt-Right Leader Richard Spencer Draws Hundreds To A&M Event
It's been about a 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. Alt-right leader and white nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at Texas A&M University. He recently gained national attention when he used a Nazi salute to celebrate Donald Trump's victory. The event drew hundreds from across the state.Spencer 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.“Say it loud, say it clear, Spencer is not welcome here.”
That's the sound of some of the hundreds of protestors who were outside the student center as Spencer spoke to a room of about 400 people inside.The speech lasted about 40 minutes, which was followed by a 90-minute Q&A. All the time, the president of the National Policy Institute made his case for white nationalism.
"America, in the end, belongs to white men," Spencer 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 the president elect during his campaign. Donald 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.
“Give me a year. When was America great?” “Back in the… probably back in the '50s.”
But 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. Last 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.” “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 drove up from Houston to listen to Spencer’s speech. McCree 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 is Seth Hamilton, who says 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.”
Kirbi Teague is a science major at Texas A&M. The African American student says 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,” Teague said.
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.