Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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When political violence goes to college

The violence over the weekend at a white supremacist protest and associated counter-protest on the campus of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, revealed, in no uncertain terms, how unprepared many college campuses are to deal with political violence, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

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Protesters in Virginia were seen carrying semiautomatic weapons, even as they marched on a college campus that has been a witness to more than its fair share of school-shooting violence at nearby Virginia Tech. A recent law in Texas went as far as to give students the specific right to carry concealed weapons in classrooms and other university buildings, provided they’re permitted to carry those weapons in general.

Colleges have been the backdrop for political uprisings before, of course, but Texas A&M University, College Station, said it was going to cancel a “White Lives Matter” rally planned for September 11. Preston Wiginton, a Texas-based white nationalist, was planning to lead the rally, but A&M cancelled it “after consultation with law enforcement and considerable study,” based on “concerns about the safety of its students, faculty, staff, and the public.”

Mr Wiginton was among those supporting Nazi-saluting white supremacists at the rally in Charlottesville over the weekend, but he pushed back verbally and threatened to take Texas A&M to court over their cancellation of his event. “It seems like the First Amendment doesn’t apply to white people,” the New York Times quoted him as saying.

But just because the one event may be cancelled—other universities, like Florida State, are considering cancelling similar rallies—doesn’t mean the university isn’t aware of its total unpreparedness to deal with the kind of violence that showed up at UVa Saturday.

Colleges “should be planning now to deal with those things that cannot be anticipated,” the Chronicle quoted Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, as saying. “These conversations need to happen now, and not in the heat of the moment.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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