They’ve been holding yell practice at Texas A&M for over a century now. The tradition started in 1913, back when the school was an all-male military school, as an after-dinner activity. Since the thirties, it’s evolved into the Midnight Yell Practice that Aggies know today. And while it usually occurs at midnight before A&M football games, the practice is versatile enough that there’s room for it under other circumstances—like, for example, when the Westboro Baptist Church rolls into College Station to protest whatever the hell they’re protesting. As Bryan/College Station’s KBTX reported:
Steve Drain, a member of WBC said they were protesting because students at the university have been fed lies.
“Their moral compasses have been broken by their parents, their teachers and their preachers,” said Drain. “From the time they were born, they were taught lies such as God loves everybody, and it’s okay to be gay, and it’s okay to divorce your wife and remarry another one.”
A short distance away at Simpson Drill Field, around 100 Aggies showed up for an impromptu Yell Practice.
Organizer Elyssa De Caprio said the practice was meant to celebrate the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as distract from the WBC protest.
“Their message is just one of pure hate, and it’s not something we want people to listen to,” said De Caprio.
Westboro members certainly have the right to demonstrate for whatever reason they want (KBTX’s video features an Aggie and former serviceman who attests to their right), but Aggies also have the right to shout out a message that is widely recognized as hate speech, if there are enough of them and their voices are loud enough.
That’s something that they’ve learned over the years, too, as this isn’t the first time the Kansas-based Westboro group has decided to go to College Station to spread their message. In 2012, some 650 Aggies created a “maroon wall” outside of a College Station church where the Westboro group planned to protest the funeral of Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale, a 1993 A&M graduate.
At the time, the Aggies planned to maintain the decorum of the funeral by staying silent and poised (the Westboro protesters, perhaps aware of the extent to which they were outnumbered, failed to materialize). It’s possible that this move from A&M students in 2012 inspired the Westboro group to target the school, which otherwise isn’t much different from any other university in the country in terms of how it embraces things that Westboro opposes. (The Houston Chronicle quotes a press release from the group that says “When you do a Google search about them, all you see is jibber jabber about their football team,” so perhaps God Hates Google Results That Focus Too Much On Football?)
In any case, whether via a dignified turnout that pays respect to a fallen Aggie while simultaneously making protest very unwelcome, or by repurposing Midnight Yell Practice for 8 a.m. when there’s some hate-speech that needs drowing out, we can safely mark the scoreboard right now at Aggies: 2, Westboro Baptist Church: 0.(yell practice image via Flickr)