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Texas A&M cancels 'White Lives Matter' rally after Charlottesville violence

"Alt-right" leader Richard Spencer was scheduled to speak Sept. 11 at the "White Lives Matter" rally at Texas A&M. The university cancelled the event, citing safety concerns. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Texas A&M University has cancelled a "White Lives Matter" rally featuring "alt-right" spokesman Richard Spencer that was scheduled to take place on its campus next month. The cancellation of the rally was in response to the deadly violence resulting from the similarly-themed "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, according to CNN.

"Texas A&M's support of the First Amendment and the freedom of speech cannot be questioned," the university said in a statement Monday afternoon. "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."

The university has a campus policy requiring external clients to secure sponsorship from a university organization in order to use campus space for an event. A&M said that none of the university's 1,200 organizations requested the event, which was organized by alum Preston Wiginton. Wiginton claims to have been inspired by the Charlottesville rally.

After failing to meet the requirements of the policy, Wiginton moved to have the rally held in a "free speech area" on a busy plaza. Coincidentally, the plaza is named after Earl Rudder, a World War II veteran. The primary reason the Sept. 11 event was cancelled was safety, according to the Texas Tribune.

Students were planning counterprotests for the cancelled September rally. Josh McCormack, the editor-in-chief of the Texas A&M student newspaper, told CNN that students were planing to recreate the "maroon wall," which is a human chain style of protest that students have previously used to protest Westboro Baptist Church.

Wiginton has said he plans to pursue legal action against the university so that the event may be held.

“We have two lawyers in Texas who are 'alt-right' leaning who will get in on the action, too,” he said to the Texas Tribune. “We will probably get the ACLU to file suit as well.”

Saunie Schuster, an attorney for The NCHERM Group, which provides consulting for schools on First Amendment issues, told the Texas Tribune that she was unsure A&M would be able to restrict the event if it was held in a public area.

When Spencer spoke at the school in December, he espoused a predictably racist and inflammatory doctrine of white supremacy, saying "At the end of the day, America belongs to the white man."

Thousands of protesters gathered both inside and outside the hall Spencer was speaking in, but there was no reported violence at the event. Two non-student arrests were made, according to the Texas A&M police department.

 

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