Pennsylvania State University canceled an event featuring Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes on Monday night.
In a statement today, Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi blamed the threat of violence, not the opinions of the Proud Boys. “Campus police were concerned about the escalating violence and public safety,” she said.
The event was to feature McInnes and Alex Stein, “who are provocateurs known for their hateful opinions and rhetoric. From the start, the Penn State administration strongly denounced both speakers. However, they were asked to take the on-campus speech by a registered student organization, and as an institution of higher learning, we support the fundamental constitutional right to free speech and freedom of expression of all members of our community. It is precisely because of this unwavering commitment to free speech that provocative individuals are targeting our campus to deliver speeches.
Bendapudi said: “I am so proud of our students who organized an alternative event to register their disapproval of these speakers and their disavowal of their hateful messages. I was privileged to be among the hundreds of professors, employees , students and community leaders inside the HUB-Robeson Center where we gathered for the “Together We Are” event which reaffirmed our unity. Others chose to gather at the outside the venue and to exercise their right to free speech in opposition to the guest speakers. I understand that Alex Stein (co-host with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes) entered the peaceful protest and this action raised the tension.”
There were no injuries, she said.
Bendapudi added: “Tonight Stein and McInnes will celebrate a victory for being called off, when in reality they contributed to the very violence that compromised their ability to speak. Tonight the counter-protesters will also celebrate a victory that they have forced the university to cancel this event, when in reality they have increased the visibility of the very cause they oppose.”