UT president denounces hate groups after torchlit gathering on campus

The University of Texas police are investigating the circumstances around a group of demonstrators wearing face masks and bearing torches who gathered on the steps of the University of Texas’ South Mall overnight Saturday.

Shortly after midnight, the group was assembling when UT officers who were patrolling the area saw them. Police told the group members 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.

RELATED: Anti-Muslim posters found on 3 UT buildings

UT police describe the group as predominately 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 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 as one that UT consider a hate groups. 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,” 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 demonstraters violated multiple policies, including the university’s ban on masks and open flames.

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