Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Into the Fray: Texas A&M University students protest Richard Spencer

By Steele Stephens

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 p.m. there was an electric buzz permeating the sharp air. It was chilly and humid. Lampposts illuminated the sidewalk with a hazy glow.

Students, professors, and protesters made their way towards the Memorial Student Center holding signs and draping American flags across their backs. I joined them.

In front of the Rudder Tower there was a long line of anti-hate protesters holding handmade picket sings, accented on either end by police monitoring activity. 

"Not usually a sign guy, but geez," one man's read. 

It was like a Facebook feed; visual images in one long line communicating ideas that represented the people sharing them. They weren't here to argue or riot. They just wanted to make their point.

I was making my way around the Southeast side of the MSC, Kyle Field towering above me like a modern-day Colosseum in the overcast night sky when I was struck in the chest.

I whipped around to see the grinning, wild-eyed mug of my thirty-something English Lit. professor, Dr. Richard Cooper.


"Dr. Cooper!"

We shook hands.

"How long you been here?” He asked.

"Just got here 10 minutes ago. Where's the rest of the action at?" I said.

"That way!" He pointed the way I was already headed, "Get over there, man!"

On cue, a roar erupted from the crowd down the street.

I walked towards it, into the fray.

Hundreds of people were gathered protesting racism, white nationalism, sexism, and intolerance. Their picket signs clogged the airspace above my head. Flags flew even higher; American, Mexican, Communist. 

The crowd was gathered around a lamppost at its epicenter. Here, three young men led the protest.

One screamed into a megaphone and wore a green beret sporting a shiny Communist star. A red communist party flag was draped across his shoulders.. 

The other shook a tambourine and pounded bongo drums.

The last strummed a guitar along with the chant.

Curious Observations:

Texas A&M University is likely the most conservative public university in America.

A lot of people agree that racism is bad.

Other than Richard Spencer and a number of his supporters who attended his actual lecture, there was no opposition or counter-protesters to be seen. Which, goes against reports that neo-nazis and white nationalist sympathizers would be in attendance. 

In the famous lyrical words of the 1960's rock and roll band Buffalo Springfield, "there's something happening here. What it is, ain't exactly clear."

Final Thoughts:

The energy of the protest was intoxicating. 

I was seduced by the energy and collaborative spirit of hundreds of individuals coming together for a common purpose. 

It was incredible to personally observe the power of a large mass of like-minded people expressing their constitutional right to free speech. 

But, at the end of the night as I watched the mob chant, 

"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," 

All I kept thinking was:

What racists?

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