Gavin McInnes And The Proud Boys Have No Place At Penn State

Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes and Alex Stein are coming to Penn State for a “comedy show” on Monday, October 24, for a two-hour event called “Stand Back and Stand By.” The show features presentations from McInnes and Stein, as well as a question and answer session.

The Proud Boys, one of the two groups that broke into the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, are designated as a terrorist organization in Canada and New Zealand.

Five people died on January 6, and four police officers who were on the scene committed suicide shortly afterward. This June, Proud Boys leader Henry Enrique Tarrio, along with four other group members, were indicted by a federal grand jury for seditious conspiracy for their role in the coup attempt. In April, an additional group member pleaded guilty to assaulting police officers during the attack.

Although McInnes stepped down as the Proud Boys’ leader in late 2018, he still has influence in the group. In September, he met with the Proud Boys in Las Vegas to quash an organizational “civil war” over the revelation that Tarrio had become a federal informant.

The event name, “Stand Back and Stand By,” is the Proud Boys’ current slogan, coined by former President Donald Trump in a 2020 debate. Tarrio responded to the comment on Parler, writing, “Standing by sir.”

Even during his tenure, McInnes made his views clear. In a 2017 appearance on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” McInnes outlined the Proud Boys’ four-step “degree” system that the group uses to initiate new members. The final degree, in his own words, is to “get arrested or in a serious, violent fight for the cause.” 

To be clear, Penn State did not fund the event directly. McInnes was booked by the student organization Uncensored America, and the event was approved by the University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC). UPAC funded $7,522 for McInnes and Stein, including their airfare and hotels. 

In the Uncensored America meeting minutes from September 6, a committee member claimed that “it is important as Penn State has a diverse range of thoughts (no matter the disagreements).”

Here are a few samples from McInnes’s “diverse range of thoughts”:

 “I love being white and I think it’s something to be very proud of,” he said. “I don’t want our culture diluted. We need to close the borders now and let everyone assimilate to a Western, white, English-speaking way of life.” — The New York Times, 2003

“Violence doesn’t feel good, justified violence feels great, and fighting solves everything.” — ABC News, 2018

“We will kill you. That’s the Proud Boys in a nutshell. We look nice, we seem soft, we have ‘boys’ in our name… We will assassinate you.” — The Gavin McInnes Show, 2017

Finally, in a video titled “10 things I hate about the Jews,” McInnes claimed that Jewish people have a “whiny, paranoid fear of Nazis,” concluding that he was “becoming anti-Semitic.” 

Penn State says that it can’t do anything to stop this event. In a statement, the university claims, “As a recognized student organization, Uncensored America has the undeniable constitutional right to sponsor this presentation on our campus.”

This claim ignores the fact that Uncensored America is an organization at Penn State, so the university should be well within its rights to dissolve Uncensored America for promoting hate speech. If not, wouldn’t every organization ever made at Penn State still be active without ever facing any consequences, no matter what it did?

McInnes’s events nearly always draw counter-protestors and have a history of turning violent.

In 2017, McInnes spoke at New York University, accompanied by a group of Proud Boys. After the students and counter-protesters started booing him, the Proud Boys fought them, leading to 11 arrests. 

The following year, McInnes and the Proud Boys were involved in another brawl that erupted during his speech. Two Proud Boys were subsequently sentenced to four years in prison.

Also in 2017, white nationalist Richard Spencer requested to speak at Penn State. He had spoken at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, days prior, during which a Neo-Nazi murdered a counter-protester with his car. Then-President Eric Barron denied his request, calling Spencer’s views “abhorrent and contradictory to our University’s values.”

Barron continued that “the First Amendment does not require our University to risk imminent violence.” Unless something has changed in the last five years, there’s no reason for President Neeli Bendapudi not to do the same.

The Student Committee for Defense and Solidarity has announced that it plans to protest against McInnes and will attempt to block him from speaking. Letting McInnes and his supporters come face-to-face with students would be disastrous.

When President Bendapudi began her tenure in May, she stated that her goal was to “foster [a] sense of belonging for every student, employee, and alumni, and help them find a way to make this special place their own.”

On Monday, many students will no longer feel that sense of belonging. President Bendapudi, I urge you to step in and do the right thing before we face the consequences of your inaction.

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About the Author

Adam Babetski

Adam Babetski is a senior double majoring in broadcast journalism and medieval history and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He's from the only part of Virginia without tractors and southern accents, except Richmond (reportedly). You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBabetski for hot takes about sports. For serious inquiries, email [email protected].

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