Home Event venue Penn State cancels event featuring Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes

Penn State cancels event featuring Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes

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A day after Pennsylvania State University shut down an event that was to feature Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, criticism continued Tuesday over the planned appearance and its abrupt cancellation.

The university had initially resisted calls to cancel the event sponsored by a group of students, citing the importance of respecting free speech rights. But officials said escalating violence led them to cancel Monday’s event shortly before it was due to start. The combination of agitated protesters, at least one physical altercation, a surge of crowds towards the event site, and chemical spraying of the crowd and police led to the decision, officials said. Penn State.

One person was arrested, but the school said an investigation was ongoing and others could face charges.

In a statement to the campus community, Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi called McInnes and Alex Stein, who was also scheduled to appear, “provocateurs known for their hateful opinions and rhetoric.

The Proud Boys are a far-right extremist group with a history of violence, known for instigating street fights with perceived enemies, including those from the anti-fascist or antifa movement. Federal investigators have accused Proud Boys leaders of conspiring to forcibly oppose President Biden’s swearing-in, which culminated in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

McInnes stepped down from his role in the Proud Boys in 2018. But Cassie Miller, senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), said he continues to promote the group and “remains intimately involved in their internal affairs”. .

Daryle Lamont Jenkins, a veteran anti-fascist organizer who heads the hate-monitoring group One People’s Project, attended the protest and said none of the attacks came from protesters.

A student protest group said members of the hate group sprayed an irritating chemical at people in the crowd. McIness hit back, blaming the other side.

Monday’s event was to be hosted by Uncensored America, which was founded by a Penn State student in 2020 with a stated mission to empower “young Americans to fight for free speech to give back free and fun American culture. He invited Stein, billed by the band as a comedian and professional troll, and McInnes, billed as a comedian and political commentator, for a comedy show called ‘Stand Back & Stand By’ – echoing words used by Donald Trump , addressing the proud Boys, during a presidential debate in 2020.

“I was clearly censored. Alex Stein was clearly censored,” McInnes said Tuesday. “The room was tiny. Fifty people could probably fit in there. Boys would be racist, sexist, whatever f— they push,” he said, insisting the group is a “patriotic men’s drinking club.”

In a statement, Uncensored America said the organization always encourages people to be peaceful and condemns all violence. “Unfortunately, participants were intimidated by violent protests and were unable to enter the site safely,” the organization said.

Stein said calling him a racist or a fascist is “the furthest thing from the truth”.

Miller of the SPLC said the event was part of a larger far-right extremist playbook that seeks to use universities as a venue to legitimize and normalize harmful ideas. She said the violence followed a previous public appearance by McInnes and wrote a letter to Penn state officials earlier this month expressing her concerns.

In his statement to the campus community, Bendapudi said Stein and McInnes “will celebrate a victory for being canceled, when in reality they contributed to the very violence that compromised their ability to speak.” The counter-protesters were also likely to “celebrate a victory that they forced the university to cancel this event,” she said, “when in reality they boosted the visibility of the cause even at which they oppose”.

When asked if he considered the cancellation of the event a “victory,” McInnes said no, adding, “Antifa won this round.”

The event drew opposition in the weeks leading up to it. A petition calling on the university to end the event, which it described as “a platform for fascists and the promotion of hateful and baseless misinformation”, has garnered more than 3,200 digital signatures.

Wyatt DuBois, a spokesman for the university, said a mass email was distributed Friday to Penn State students, faculty and staff by an anonymous group opposed to the event. The message encouraged direct confrontation with the two speakers, he said. As a result, officials urged the campus community to avoid the event.

On Monday, several hundred students, faculty and others gathered at another location on campus for a counter-programming event emphasizing unity. But many others gathered to protest Stein and McInnes.

Stein entered the protest peacefully and it heightened tensions, according to Bendapudi. Stein criticized the cancellation on social media, later tweeting a video of him mocking and taunting furious protesters, one of whom spat at him.

A person dressed in black began to hold up a can before spraying chemical irritants into the crowd, from a video from Ford Fischer from News2Share. In the clip, the police did not intervene.

“Some brave people have been pepper sprayed by members of hate groups authorized by the PSU Administrator to terrorize our campus,” the student group Student Committee for Defense and Solidarity said in an Instagram post. The group also criticized the police response.

Gary King, professor of biobehavioral health, watched the protests.

“I was happy to see the students at Penn State defending something other than a touchdown,” King said, “and leading the administration forward.”

Maria Luisa Paul and Spencer Hsu contributed to this report.