One person was arrested, but the school said: an investigation was underway and others could be charged.
In a statement to the campus community, Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi characterized McInnes and Alex Stein, who was also to appear, as “provocateurs known for their abhorrent views and rhetoric.
The Proud Boys are a far-right extremist group with a history of violence, known for instigating street fights with alleged enemies, including those from the anti-fascist or antifa movement. Federal investigators have accused the leaders of the Proud Boys of plotting to forcibly oppose President Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, which culminated in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
McInnes retired from his role with the Proud Boys in 2018. But Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), said he continues to promote the group and “remain closely involved in their internal affairs.”
Daryle Lamont Jenkins, a veteran anti-fascist organizer who leads the hate-following group One People’s Project, attended the protest and said none of the aggression came from protesters.
A student protest group said members of the hate group had sprayed a chemical irritant at people in the crowd. McIness countered and threw the blame on the other side.
Monday’s event was to be hosted by Uncensored America, which was founded in 2020 by a Penn State college student with a stated mission to “Empower young Americans to fight for free speech to make American culture free and fun again.” ‘. It invited Stein, billed by the group as a comedian and professional troll, and McInnes, billed as a comedian and political commentator, to a comedy show titled “Stand Back & Stand By” — echoing words used by Donald Trump. , targeting the proud Boys, during a 2020 presidential debate.
“I was clearly censored. Alex Stein was clearly censored,” McInnes said Tuesday. “The room was small. It could probably fit fifty people. Fifty people got no jokes because of the media story about Proud Boys being racist, sexist, whatever they push,” he said, insisting the group is a “patriotic men’s drinking club”.
In a statement, Uncensored America said the organization has always encouraged people to be peaceful and condemns all violence. “Unfortunately, those in attendance were intimidated by violent protests and were unable to safely enter the venue,” the organization said.
Stein said characterizations of him as a racist or fascist are “furthest from the truth.”
Miller, of the SPLC, said the event is part of a broader far-right extremist playbook that seeks to use universities as a place to legitimize and normalize harmful ideas. She said violence followed a previous public appearance by McInnes and wrote a letter to Penn State officials earlier this month expressing her concerns.
In her statement to the campus community, Bendapudi said Stein and McInnes will “celebrate a victory for being canceled when in reality they contributed to the violence that compromised their ability to speak.” Counter-protesters would also likely “celebrate a victory forcing the university to cancel this event,” she said, “when in reality they have increased the visibility of the cause they are opposing.”
When asked if he considered the event’s cancellation a “victory,” McInnes said no, adding, “Antifa won this round.”
The event drew opposition in the weeks leading up to the event. A petition calling on the university to stop the event, which it described as “platforming fascists and promoting hateful, worthless disinformation,” garnered more than 3,200 digital signatures.
Wyatt DuBois, a spokesperson for the university, said a mass email was distributed Friday to Penn State students, faculty and staff from an anonymous group that opposed the event. The message encouraged a 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 counterprogramming event to highlight unity. But many others gathered to protest Stein and McInnes.
WATCH: Tensions flared between police and protesters outside the Thomas Building Monday night at an event hosted by Uncensored America https://t.co/Ok4fOpcGFq
— The Daily Collegian (@DailyCollegian) October 25, 2022
Stein walked into the peaceful protest and it escalated, according to Bendapudi. Stein criticized the cancellation on social media and later tweeted a video of him who laughed and taunted angry protesters, one of whom spat on him.
A person who was all in black started waving a can before spraying chemical irritants into the crowd, according to a video by Ford Fischer of News2Share. In the clip, the police did not intervene.
“Some brave people were pepper sprayed by members of hate groups who were enlisted by the PSU administrator to terrorize our campus,” the Student Council for Defense and Solidarity student group said in an Instagram post. The group was also critical of the police response.
Gary King, professor of biobehavioral health, looked at the protests.
“I was happy to see Penn State students stand up for something other than a touchdown,” King said, “and lead the way for the government to follow.”
Maria Luisa Paul and Spencer Hsu contributed to this report.