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UT students protest 'The Eyes of Texas' song during Gone To Texas event

The protest is the latest event in the ongoing controversy around the school's alma mater.

AUSTIN, Texas — A group of about two dozen University of Texas at Austin students staged a protest during an annual event to welcome new students Tuesday night, according to KVUE's media partners at the Austin American-Statesman.

UT hosted its Gone To Texas event in front of the UT Tower Tuesday night, ahead of the start of the fall semester on Wednesday. Thousands of incoming students were in attendance.

According to the Statesman, the protest group was taking a stand against "The Eyes of Texas," UT's controversial alma mater. The Statesman reports that multiple students screamed, some through megaphones, as the band played multiple songs during the end of Gone To Texas, including "The Eyes of Texas."

Students reportedly shouted, "Hey hey, ho ho, The Eyes of Texas has got to go," among other chants, and carried a banner that read, "Students & Workers Demand Cops Off Campus." The protesters included members of multiple student organizations, including Cops Off Campus, Underpaid at UT and UTexas Direct Action

One student who helped organize the protest told the Statesman that the group chose to disrupt Gone To Texas to reach incoming students and gain support for the efforts to replace "The Eyes of Texas." Flyers were also distributed to incoming students with a zine about "the troubled past and present at the University of Texas," the Statesman reports.

The Statesman reports that after Gone To Texas, dozens of incoming students joined the protesters on the steps of the tower and chanted phrases including "Cops off campus" and "No justice, no peace." Other students watched from the bottom of the stairs, taking photos and videos and chanting along.

"The Eyes of Texas" has been at the center of ongoing controversy for months. In March, UT announced it would continue playing the song after its "The Eyes of Texas History Committee" concluded there was "no racist intent" associated with the song and issued a 58-page report. The committee said the song – which was debuted at a minstrel show in 1903 by singers who were likely in blackface – first appeared during a time where racist settings were "exceedingly common."

Emails obtained by The Texas Tribune showed wealthy alumni and donors had threatened to stop supporting the university financially, demanding the school stand up to "cancel culture" and firmly get behind the song. Alumni and donors threatened to cancel season tickets, end donations and boycott games. 

In May, KVUE reported that the Texas Legislative Black Caucus was working with the university in hopes to change the decision. A group of Austin-area Black lawmakers, civil rights leaders, students and alumni spoke out against UT’s decision to keep the song, with one Longhorn band member saying the university was "gaslighting us into believing that this song was somehow acceptable."

The Gone To Texas protest was also not the first time current UT students have planned a public stand against the song. Reports circled in late May that a group of students was planning a walkout during the spring commencement ceremony.

WATCH: Amid 'Eyes of Texas' controversy, UT hires first Black band director

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