The University of Texas police are investigating the circumstances involving a group of demonstrators wearing face masks and bearing torches who gathered on the steps of UT’s South Mall overnight Saturday.
Shortly after midnight, as the group was assembling, UT officers patrolling the area saw them. Police told the members of the group to extinguish the torches, take off the masks and leave campus.
A photo circulating on social media shows more than a dozen people gathered, wearing dark clothing and holding American flags.
UT police described the group as predominantly white men, but UT officials said they knew of no students in the group.
“They had just lit those torches,” said Cindy Posey, spokeswoman for the UT police. “They were gathering; they were told to leave and left. We got them off our campus quickly.”
Posey said one person at the gathering identified the group by name, and it is one that UT considers a hate group. She would not disclose the name.
“The actions of white supremacists and other hate groups are completely anathema to UT’s values, and I abhor what they represent,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves said in a statement. “These are difficult times for our nation, with movements fueled by hatred increasingly taking root, as we saw in Charlottesville and elsewhere. We must continue to denounce these ugly, un-American ideas in the strongest terms.”
While UT encourages free speech and an exchange of ideas, Fenves said, the “campus is not open for non-university-affiliated groups to stage protests or gatherings.”
Fenves said the demonstrators violated multiple policies, including the university’s ban on masks and open flames.