There has been shock and outrage at Texas A & M and in my community over an unwanted visit from Neo Nazi Richard Spencer, engaged to speak on campus by another Neo Nazi, Preston Wiginton. Both men are white supremacists who advocate for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
Though everyone was appalled, it became apparent that nothing could be done legally to cancel the event. There was a firestorm on social media among students and the rest of the community alike. The local paper, The Eagle did a great job educating the public and keeping us informed.
Protests, alternate events and lectures were planned in the days leading up to December 6.
I contributed to the conversation by writing a letter to the editor mostly addressed to my fellow Catholics here in Bryan College Station.
I put the letter on my blog and you can read it here. (Resist like a Catholic part I)
I hate crowds, and I hate going to things. I was somewhat agitated at work that day, even though I felt strongly that I wanted to be at the protests on campus.
But when it was almost time to get off work, I felt that Our Lady wanted me there, and that I shouldn’t worry. She wanted me to pray the rosary with my actions, and to be an apostle of love just by being myself and being there. So I felt fine.
On arrival with my young friend, Kaylah, we saw there were media people everywhere.
There were already drums and protest chants going on in small crowds of students and community members gathered on corners, flags being waved, signs being held up as we walked to Rudder Tower.
We found the area in Rudder Plaza where a group of about 150 silent protesters prayerfully held signs and stood quietly in the middle of all the noise and movement.
We joined them, holding our signs.
I drew my rosary from my pocket and prayed it in silence, closing my eyes. I felt that Mother Mary was standing among us, praying with us.
Kaylah and I stayed with the silent protest until it ended an hour later.
I saw some other Catholics and shook my rosary at them. They smiled and shook theirs back at me.
Kaylah and I walked around, joining other groups in chants and sign waving for a while. But she was cold and started not to feel well, so I took her home. She was glad she had come.
I drove directly back to campus. It was dusk and more and more people were coming. In just a few minutes the crowd stretched as far as I could see. I felt great joy and participated whole heartedly, rosary in hand with my sign, a quote about racism from Pope Francis, “Racism today is the greatest evil of our time.”
The people/united/can never be divided! The Aggies/united/can never be divided!
A river of people formed and started to march between Kyle Field and the Memorial Student Center.
I stopped at the statue of the Twelfth Man to make a decision. Everyone had to be inside the stadium by 6:30 for the alternate event planned by President Young of A & M to celebrate Aggie Unity. I had felt an obligation to attend both events. But at the last minute, I felt strongly that I belonged outside with the protestors. That was where I was supposed to be, so I joined the river of people.
I felt so very proud as I looked around me. I was so proud of the Aggies, so proud of my community, coming together to stand up for love and equality. I thought the chants were great, and I laughed at some of them. I really liked the one where we jumped up and down with our signs.
We stopped at the front doors of the Memorial Student Center and continued our protest. Some young people stepped up and spoke, in turn. I was glad that there was a Christian who said that what Spencer is advocating is the opposite of the Gospel.
A young immigrant from El Salvador said his family immigrated to the USA when he was nine. “I am an American too! And this is my school!” His voice sounded familiar. He turned out to be an old friend of my youngest daughter from High School, named Farid.
I have often thought that when you are doing something God has asked you to do, he gives you all you need to do it. That was the case for me. I later realized I had been out there in the cold for five hours. My arms never got tired of holding up my sign and my rosary. My voice never got hoarse from yelling out chants. I am normally a wimp about the cold. But I was fine the whole time.
A young woman pushed through the crowd and said she loved my sign, and she was so happy to see other Catholics here. I said I was happy to see her, too.
Some of the protestors began to flow into the building, (the Memorial Student Center) during Spencer’s speech.
A young woman on the porch started shouting for everyone to move back. I didn’t understand why. But then out of nowhere a line of state police in riot gear stretched into a wall before us. I was in the front row, and they were inches from me. As the surprise of this reality went through the crowd, I began to feel deeply quiet and peaceful inside. For some reason a memory flashed across my mind of playing on those same steps of the MSC when I was a little girl and my parents were students here.
Then I inwardly saw a gentle light, like star light, covering everyone there. Everyone. It stretched the whole town, then, a light of blessing and protection.
I silently prayed, “God, whatever happens, I offer you my life.”
I looked at the faces of the police. Some of them seemed so young. The one who was inches from me looked worried.
Many of us were holding up our phones and taking video. Several people called out for us to keep it up. An order was given and the police started advancing on us, saying in unison, “MOVE! MOVE!” with every step toward us. I fell backwards but that friend of my daughters’ I had seen earlier, had put his arm around me and kept me from falling.
I managed to get a few pictures on my phone as I walked/was pushed backwards.
They pushed us into the street and halted. Some people started a chant, “Cops and Klan go hand in hand.” Not a lot of people joined it, and the young officer directly in front of me (who was not white) looked upset. “That’s not true, I know that’s not true. They shouldn’t say that!” I said to him. He nodded. A young woman came up through the crowd and told the police we all knew they were just doing their jobs, and others said the same. Some people closer to the front started singing, “No hate, no hate!”
That’s right. No hate. Not for anyone.
Then the horses came. At first I thought they were the Parson’s Mounted Calvary and wondered what they were doing there. However, they were police horses and they were there to disperse us. A lot of people said, “This is a peaceful protest, what are you doing?” Some chanted, “This is my school!” I was trying to get a picture of the horses and one of the officers smiled and moved his shoulder so I could see better. “Did you get it?” Yeah, thanks!” Farid pulled me backwards and out of the way as the horses were brought into the crowd.
Then my favorite moment of the night happened. As we faced off with state police, we linked arms and sang the Aggie War Hymn. It was the best. All those Aggie songs I had sung and heard my whole life made sense in a new way to me last night. As my dad would text me later, “Context.”
Eventually, we heard that the speech was over and that the authorities were asking that we go home. We supposed Richard Spencer was being escorted out, or would be soon. There was still something more to be said, in that case. So we stayed, chanting, “DONT COME BACK! DONT COME BACK! Don’t come BACK!”
Amen. Amen to that. And gig’em too.