Last night amidst rumors of planned violence, studying for finals, and much to my girlfriend's chagrin I attended the protests held against Alt-Right activist Richard Spencer's speaking engagement at Texas A&M University.
Into the Fray:
Walking off the bus and onto campus at 6:15 PM the first thing I noticed was an electric buzz of anticipation permeating the atmosphere. The night was chilly and humid, giving the air a hazy glow wherever outdoor lighting illuminated the sidewalk. Students, professors, and protesters alike made their way towards the Memorial Student Center (MSC) holding signs and draping American flags across their backs. I joined them. As we approached Rudder Tower I could see that a long line of anti-hate protesters had formed, accented on either end by police officers monitoring their activity. I took a moment to gather footage here and chuckled at a few of the signs. One man's poster read, "Not usually a sign guy, but geez". These protesters were noticeably quiet and orderly, letting their written messages speak for themselves. It reminded me of a real-life Facebook feed; visual images in one long line communicating ideas that represented the people sharing them. They weren't there to argue or riot. They simply wanted to make their point.
Moving on, I made my way around to the Southeast side of the MSC, Kyle Field towering above me like a beacon in the cold, cloudy night sky. Walking Southwest I was suddenly struck in the chest by someone's hand, hard enough to make me audibly grunt. I whipped my head to face my attacker only to see the grinning, wild-eyed mug of my thirty-something English Lit. professor, Dr. Richard Cooper; shoulder length hair pulled back into a low pony tail wearing a khaki-colored canvas jacket, dark-wash jeans, and worn leather boots.
"Dr. Cooper! Good to see you tonight, sir!"
We shook hands.
"You too! How long you been here?" He asked.
"Just got here 10 minutes ago, I saw the picket line by Rudder. Where's the rest of the action at?"
"That way," he said pointing in the direction I was already headed, "there's a shit-ton of people, get over there, man!" Dr. Cooper urged with a wink.
I turned to see. As if on cue, a roar erupted from a crowd gathered at the far end of the MSC.
"Okay! Be safe tonight Professor!" I said turning back to face him. He was already gone, consumed by the energy of the atmosphere. I headed the opposite direction, into the fray.
Hundreds of people were gathered, all protesting the same things; racism, white Nationalism, sexism, hate, and intolerance. Signs condemning these ideologies clogged the airspace directly above our heads. Flags flew above these; American, Mexican, Communist. The crowd was gathered around a lamppost at the epicenter of the mob. Directly beneath the light three young men led the protest chants; one screaming into a megaphone and wearing a beret sporting a shiny Communist star, the other wielding a tambourine and pounding on bongo drums, and the last strumming a guitar to the rhythm of the rhyme. I weaved in and out of the crowd, gathering as much footage and photographs as I could without taking away from my personal experience of the event. It was incredible to see so many people, from all walks of life, coming together to speak out against ideologies they understood to be prolific and oppressive. They were sending their message loud and clear, "racists, go home."
Some Curious Observations:
Here’s what I learned. First off, a lot of people agree that racism is bad. I mean a lot. The same goes for white Nationalism, Fascism, sexism, intolerance, and hate. Second, other than Richard Spencer and a number of his supporters who physically attended his talk, no one really seemed to disagree with anybody else. I had heard that there would be Neo-Nazis and white Nationalist sympathizers attending in opposition of the protests but the only person I saw who seemed to fit this description was a smaller, compact man who looked to be in his late 30's wearing black jeans, a black leather jacket, and a blue baseball cap covering a closely shaved skull scurrying away from the crowd. But, for all I know, he just as well could have been an average student late for a night class.
Basically, as far as I could personally observe, the presence of opposing ideologies at last night's protests was close to non-existent. I circled the entire area hoping to catch any glimpse of the Alt-Right, Neo-Nazi, or white Nationalist presence but came away disappointed. They just didn't seem to be around. Maybe they were, but I didn't see them and I looked hard; which is weird to me. Texas A&M is one of the most Conservative public universities in Texas, or the country for that matter. One would expect a certain level of so-called intolerance to be observable at an event as hyped up as last night's. The fact that there honestly wasn't could mean a few things . . .
It's possible the opposition realized they were outnumbered by "tolerance", packed up, and headed back into the boondocks. It's also possible that they were there, blending into the background, influencing the course of events in disguise. It's equally as possible that I simply didn't look for them in the right places. But maybe, and this may sound crazy, but maybe the level of cultural intolerance the media so vehemently claims to exist, simply doesn't. Maybe there is a narrative being crafted through artificial outrage at a close to non-existent scapegoat. I mean, come on, tolerance isn't some new idea. The past 150 years of our nation have been defined by its appropriation. It's seems unlikely that after all we have been taught about the evils of these hateful ideologies that the existence of a large population of racist, hateful, bigots could exist in 2016. Maybe, just maybe, this narrative of increased racism, conflict, and tension is propagated by the media and is actually a political reaction to the results of this years’ presidential election by the Left in an effort to re-liberalize our nations up and coming generations and aggravate artificially instilled tensions between the People and traditionally Conservative authority figures.
This idea seems to be supported by an experience that happened to me personally hours after posting my footage of the protests online. I received a message from a representative for storyful.com asking permission to send my video of the protests to a number of news media outlets. I agreed, happily. Shortly after granting permission, they contacted me again. This time they wanted to know if I had any quality footage of the police presence at the event. I gave them what I had, but this struck me as odd. From my observations, the police had been on the outskirts of the crowd, respectfully keeping a watchful eye for any potential threats. However, this morning, the primary media rhetoric has been focused on stories that seem to hint at a Law Enforcement vs. Protester narrative. Why? The majority of last night was defined by peaceful protest of the People with a few brief moments of heightened tension. Anyone who had been there could attest to this. And yet, the mainstream news media is more concerned with spreading footage of a strong police presence to use, in my opinion, to continue the propagation a false narrative that promotes tension between the People and police in an effort to demonize authority and advance their socialist agenda. In the famous lyrical words of the 1960's Rock and Roll band Buffalo Springfield, "There's something happening here [but] what it is, ain't exactly clear."
"Everywhere we go people want to know who we are, so we tell them. We are the People! The mighty, mighty People! Fighting for Justice and against the racists,"
I couldn't help but think to myself, “What racists?”