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Professor Charged After Altercation With Counter-Protester At Pro-Vaccine Rally

A Penn State faculty member is facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly assaulting a counter-protester during a rally urging the university to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations.

W. Oliver Baker, a 36-year-old assistant professor of English and African American studies, is charged with misdemeanor counts of simple assault and disorderly conduct – engage in fighting and a summary count of harassment.

Officers were dispatched to the demonstration on August 27 outside of Old Main, where they found a college-aged male counter-protester with blood running from his nose down his face and neck, according to a criminal complaint filed by Penn State police.

Several males and one female were seen first “attempting to cordon off the victim from moving freely,” and continuing “to follow him closely” as he moved back and forth near the steps of Old Main while carrying a sign, according to the complaint.

Police reviewed a video posted to Twitter by Centre County Report that showed one of the males, later identified as Baker, grabbing the sign and attempting to take it by force before allegedly pulling the counter-protester to the ground.

A struggle ensued on the ground for a few seconds and then the alleged victim is seen back on his feet with a bloody face yelling, “Get the f— off me.”

Police used campus surveillance video to track Baker, who allegedly walked away from the scene upon the officers’ arrival, from the rally to his office, according to the complaint.

The counter-protester was taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center for evaluation. He allegedly told police he believed he may have struck his head when he was pulled to the ground and that the injury to his nose happened during the struggle when Baker’s shoulder made contact with his face.

Baker’s attorney did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

A university spokesperson said Baker is currently on administrative leave.

Baker was charged via summons. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for October 13.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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