Richard Spencer’s appearance draws ire of Texas A&M officials, students

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — When Richard Spencer arrived at Texas A&M on Tuesday, bringing his message of white supremacy, he did so against the wishes of university officials.

Dozens of students gathered outside the auditorium where Spencer will be speaking to counter his presence.

The town of College Station can thank one of its residents, Aggie alum Preston Wiginton, for extending Spencer an invitation to campus. Since the school is a public university, the event can go on as scheduled, officials said.

In a Monday interview on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” Wiginton said Spencer’s message contained some “valid points” that the election of Donald Trump has further validated.

“I think (the United States) was at one time (a white nation),” Wiginton told CNN. “I think the reaction to Trump being elected, and the reaction with the alt-right being popular, is a reaction to it declining as a white nation.”

Spencer spoke to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, hours ahead of his speech. “This obviously has caused a huge scene,” he said. The university’s reaction to his speaking “shows the power of the alt-right and the power of our ideas.”

A hate supreme

Until Monday night, Wiginton had only known Spencer through online circles. But the College Station resident wanted to bring to campus the president of the National Policy Institute, an alt-right group known for espousing views of white supremacy, because he wanted to spread the message that white people face marginalization.

“Why would I want to see America become less white?” Wiginton said. “Why would I want to be displaced and marginalized?”

A recent Spencer speech in Washington drew major criticism for its hate-filled rhetoric that prompted attendees to give Nazi salutes in Trump’s honor.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group that tracks white supremacists, Wiginton once said he wanted to “prevent the populations of ‘white nations’ from becoming what he has termed ‘a homogenous muddle of sludge.'” In his CNN interview, Wiginton said he was misquoted, but that the larger point still holds true.

“It’s not just pigment,” he said. “It’s people’s behavior, people’s IQ, people evolve over different time and places.”

Wiginton said he hopes for a full ban on immigration in the future.

“I don’t think that you can bring Somalians into America and expect them to assimilate,” he said.

Challenged, the white nationalist didn’t offer further evidence about his views.

“Sometimes maybe being a bigot is wise,” he said.

Officials: We don’t endorse Spencer’s rhetoric

Spencer’s speech is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Memorial Student Center.

Texas A&M Senior Vice President Amy Smith has said in a statement that the school “finds (Spencer’s) views as expressed to date in direct conflict with our core values.”

Smith noted that private citizens like Wiginton can reserve space given the university’s public status, but must cover rental expenses to avoid burdening taxpayers.

“To be clear, Texas A&M University — including faculty, staff, students and/or student groups — did not invite this speaker to our campus nor do we endorse his rhetoric in any way,” Smith said.

At the same time, Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young noted in a statement, the right of free speech must be acknowledged.

But to show solidarity, Smith will participate in the university’s “Aggies United” event at Kyle Field that will feature actor Hill Harper, journalist Roland Martin and Holocaust survivor Max Glauben, among others. The event is being held during the time Spencer plans to speak.

Elsewhere on campus, protests are expected in an effort to drown out Spencer’s message.

The Texas Aggie Democrats held a sign-making event Monday evening, encouraging students to “bring yourself and ideas for slogans.” The Council for Minority Student Affairs, meanwhile, planned to present “a counter-talk on racist speech on college campuses” that will begin at the same time as Spencer’s address.

“We have a responsibility to take a measured action to counter white nationalism and white supremacy,” said Nicholas Meindl, a graduate student at Texas A&M who planned to protest Spencer’s speech.

‘We pledge to move forward’

Regarding the potential backlash, Wiginton told CNN affiliate KBTX that Spencer’s appearance is “reminiscent of civil rights events of the 1960s era, which were often met with whiskey bottles and baseball bats.”

To him, the event needed to go on, not only to exercise a right of free speech, but to further the cause of white supremacy.

“We pledge to move forward,” said Wiginton.