What Really Happened at the Penn State Protest Against Proud Boys Founder Gavin McInnes
For weeks, students had been demanding the school cancel a right-wing “comedy” event on campus. The school eventually did, minutes before it was meant to happen, as tensions mounted between protesters and uniformed Proud Boys.
By Tess Owen
STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania — It was a golden October afternoon in Pennsylvania’s so-called “Happy Valley,” and a group of Penn State students had gathered in a small park overlooking an athletic field.
They were there to put a plan in motion: to disrupt and shut down a campus “comedy” event slated for later that evening, featuring Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and professional right-wing troll Alex Stein. (Disclosure: Gavin McInnes, who founded the Proud Boys in 2016, was a co-founder of VICE in 1994. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then.)
Hours after that preliminary meeting, riot police and officers mounted on horseback deployed to Penn State campus to counter the angry crush of hundreds of student protesters outside the Thomas Building, where the event was being held. Uniformed Proud Boys showed up. A group of far-right agitators in all black sprayed students and media with pepper spray.
And eventually, before Stein and McInnes’ event—titled “Stand Back & Stand By” in a nod to former President Donald Trump’s infamous aside addressing the Proud Boys in a 2020 presidential debate—had even taken place, the university, citing “escalating violence” canceled it entirely.