A group of protesters, some masked and carrying torches, were asked to leave the Main Mall by UT police officers around 12:04 a.m. this morning. The protesters left immediately without conflict, University spokeswoman Cindy Posey said.
Police officers patrolling campus encountered the protesters — a small group of less than 20 — gathering on the Main Mall and directed them to remove their masks and leave campus. Posey said the officers were able to stop the demonstration before it fully began.
“The police were patrolling and saw them come on campus and start to gather and stopped it immediately,” Posey said. “They were lighting the torches as the police were walking up.”
The UT Police Department tweeted an alert at 1:16 p.m. today that the protesters were wearing American flag masks and had been identified as a group predominantly consisting of white males.
UT President Gregory Fenves sent out a campus-wide email a few hours later addressing the incident.
“The actions of white supremacists and other hate groups are completely anathema to UT’s values, and I abhor what they represent,” Fenves said in the email.
Fenves also reiterated campus regulations regarding protests and identified the policies violated by the protesters this morning, including the University’s ban on masks and open flames. UT also does not allow non-UT organizations to protest on campus.
“The University of Texas is committed to free speech and the robust exchange of ideas among students, employees and invited visitors — but our campus is not open for non-university-affiliated groups to stage protests or gatherings,” Fenves said.
Fenves encouraged the UT community to maintain an inclusive environment and said the campus is responsible for identifying what the school will represent.
“The actions of a hate group do not define us,” Fenves said. “They never will.”
UTPD is investigating the situation further.