A Zoom lecture by students on the University of Texas song at Austin School, “Eyes from Texas,” got spooky when a masked man loaded and brandished a gun with a view to some participants.
Thursday’s lecture was chaired by Alberto Martinez, a history professor who says his research shows the song has racist origins, unlike the university’s position. There have been calls for the university to stop using the song, which debuted on a minstrel show and is believed by some to be linked to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Conference organizers believe that only the Zoom meeting moderators saw the man with the gun because the professor leading the discussion was “pinned” or highlighted on screen.
A screenshot provided to NBC News on Tuesday night shows a man wearing a beanie, a bandana covering a large part of his face and only his eyes are visible. He holds the gun with both hands in front of his chest.
Martinez alerted University Police, who said they were investigating but would not comment.
The school song chat, hosted by student group Texas Orange Jackets, was webcast live on Facebook and open to the public, so the due diligence of attendees was more lenient.
The Orange Jackets is a service organization whose members act as hosts at UT Austin events and for visitors to UT Austin, including veterans and celebrities. The group joined with other students in requesting the end use of the song at the university.
“I think that kind of violence made me realize that it wasn’t just a college argument over a song,” said Irene Ameena, director of inclusion for the Orange Jackets.
“It’s traumatic to see someone load a gun in front of you,” Ameena said.
She said the incident was more baffling than it came after a report from the Texas Tribune that wealthy alumni threatened to donate to the college if the song was replaced and after a soccer player tweet saying he has received death threats because of his opposition to the song.
The Orange Jackets traditionally walked the football field at UT Austin Stadium during games and sang “The Eyes of Texas”.
In 2017, the band decided to stop singing the song at their meetings and quit singing the song altogether last year. He joined with other students in asking the university to replace the song.
A college committee that examined the song’s origins in a report concluded that the song debuted on a minstrel performance, but its intention was not “overtly racist.” The university allowed students to choose not to sing it.
Martinez countered the university’s findings with his own research, which he presented at the Zoom meeting titled “Investigating the Eyes of Texas – Dr. Alberto Martinez.”
Ameena said her band takes responsibility for being “an accomplice” in promoting the song over the years and organized the conference as a way to keep attention to the story behind the song, which has started to appear. decline after UT Austin released its report.
Martinez was made aware of the man with the gun when Ameena announced him at the conference, which can be heard in the video.
“Someone came on the call and turned on the camera and showed up loading a gun. We pulled it out as soon as we could,” Ameena said in the video.
Martinez said he was told wielding a weapon could be considered a terrorist threat. The FBI did not respond to an NBC News investigation into whether it was investigating the incident.
Martinez consulted with a student more familiar with firearms who identified the weapon as a KelTec KSG 12 gauge shotgun.
“It’s definitely scary to see someone with a tactical shotgun when you’re just talking about a song,” Martinez said.
“I guess for a lot of people it’s a symbol of Texas or the things they value,” he said. “But at the same time, we’re just talking, so it’s shocking to see someone wearing a mask and threateningly wielding a weapon.”
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