President-elect Donald Trump has added another act to his inauguration — and the group’s participation is instantly causing controversy.
Talladega College’s Marching Tornados will participate in Trump’s inaugural parade, PEOPLE confirms. The Alabama school is a historically black college and the first in the state to admit any qualified person, regardless of race or ethnic origin.
According to a press release, the school made the decision to take part in the parade after Talladega student Dollan Young started a Change.org petition urging the marching band to participate because “this parade is not about politics it’s about seeing first hand the process of a transition.”
Their participation is noteworthy since Trump was criticized during his campaign for making comments many deemed to be racist, and for his close ties to Stephen Bannon, widely considered to be a leading figure in the “alt-right” movement — a loosely defined group that supports a white nationalist agenda.
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The release also noted that the decision to take part in the inaugural parade has been met with “both praise and condemnation,” and that the college did not accept the invitation to participate until after school officials had an opportunity to “hear and consider the thoughts and feelings of the Talladega College community.”
“We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade,” said Talladega College President Billy Hawkins. “As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power.”
After the news of their participation began to spread, some took to Twitter to express their disappointment.
Trump has had difficulty attracting acts to take part in his inauguration on Jan. 20. So far, teen opera singer Jackie Evancho is the only soloist scheduled to perform.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Radio City Rockettes are also confirmed to participate, although several dancers from the iconic troupe have expressed serious concerns about taking part because of past comments Trump has made that they consider racist and misogynistic.