Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes was supposed to speak at Penn State University last night. Instead, the event was canceled for safety reasons after his supporters clashed with protesters outside the venue.
Multiple independent reports and videos circulating online show people identified as Proud Boys and their supporters spraying protesters with a chemical agent. There are reports that cops on horseback charged the crowd at one point, nearly tramping people in the process.
McInnes was scheduled to speak with comedian Alex Stein as part of his tour for Uncensored America. The non-profit says it hosts “honest and fun conversations with controversial figures to fight censorship and cancel culture”
In advance of the event, a number of students spoke out, decrying the Proud Boys as a hate group, leading to the protests in advance of the event.
Now, Penn State is being criticized for blaming the protesters.
“We have encouraged peaceful protest, and, while protest is an acceptable means of expression, it becomes unacceptable when it obstructs the basic exchange of ideas,” Penn State wrote in a statement.
“…The University expects that people engaging in expressive activity will demonstrate civility, concern for the safety of persons and property, respect for university activities and for those who may disagree with their message, and will comply with university rules.”
Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi fanned the flames of outrage by later releasing a separate statement claiming that it “is unclear” who initiated the violence and scolding the protesters for giving McInnes a chance to celebrate being canceled
“Tonight, counter-protestors also will celebrate a victory that they forced the university to cancel this event, when in actuality they have furthered the visibility of the very cause they oppose,” Bendapudi added.]
Bendapudi did say that McInnes and his co-speaker “contributed to the very violence that compromised their ability to speak.”
Multiple journalists who covered the event say that McInnes’ supporters were explicitly responsible for the escalation.
Photojournalist Zach D. Roberts reported that he was pepper sprayed by a Proud Boy.
He separately tweeted a video that shows a person he identified as a right-winger entering a crowd of anti-Proud Boys protesters in an attempt to “start a fight” with them. Then, Roberts reported, the right-winger “pepper-sprayed the people around him” as the police watched and did nothing.
Tess Owen of Vice News separately tweeted video of a “fascist” pepper-spraying the protesters.
The Penn State Daily Collegian and other on campus reporters also say that Proud Boys and their sympathizers used pepper spray on protesters.
One protester told the Daily Collegian, “You know the Proud Boys came over, and they maced me for no reason—no reason at all. No one touched anyone, and the guy just opened up his can of mace and started spraying everywhere. He got me and a bunch of girls.”
Independent journalist Ford Fischer reports that a fight broke out between a Proud Boys a protester who confronted them, but it isn’t clear who instigated it. Fischer tweeted that police escorted the Proud Boy to safety while the other person in the fight lay on the ground.
Other videos and reports show officers driving through a crowd of protesters. Many have accused police of standing by while Proud Boys supporters sprayed the crowd.
One video shows a protester spit on right-wing provocateur Stein, who was to appear alongside McInnes. Otherwise, the overwhelming majority of the videos circulating online and accounts of those present indicate that Proud Boys and their supporters were responsible for the violence.
Penn State is now being criticized for blaming the victims.
“PSU gonna both sides this?” tweeted one of the school’s many critics.
Many believe that this all could’ve been avoided if the school refused to allow McInnes to speak in the first place.
“It’s weird that you booked the Proud Boys, who tried to overthrow the government, and were surprised that violence ensued,” @bushidosquirrel commented sarcastically on Penn State’s tweet linking to its statement.
Online criticisms of Penn State continued throughout Tuesday morning.
“I’m disgusted w/ my uni’s admin for blaming protestors,” tweeted one.
Penn State has said that it condemns McInnes’ views but stands by its decision to allow him to speak.