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[Photo Story] Demonstrators Gather To Protest Expected Controversial Speakers At Penn State

On Monday night, demonstrators gathered outside the Thomas Building to protest two controversial speakers who were brought to campus by the student-run club Uncensored America.

The Student Committee for Defense and Solidarity (SCDS) organized this protest early in the month through flyers and social media, imploring Penn State to take action against allowing this speaker — the founder of Proud Boys — to run an event on campus.

SCDS sent out a mass email encouraging the protest last week, also discouraging attendance to the alternative “Together We Are” event scheduled for the same time.

Last week, Penn State Police and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims issued separate statements in response. Sims urged students “not to take the bait.”

“Those who are experts in hate groups tell us time and time again that engaging them is the wrong response,” Sims wrote. “Doing so merely amplifies their hate. It feeds their angry purpose.”

Despite this discourse, a large number of students and community members gathered in protest.

Hours before the scheduled event, there was a large police presence. Officers lined the Thomas Building and several were on horseback.

The protest began as planned with students leading chants such as “Fascists and racists off campus!” and “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

Many protestors had their faces covered with masks as they carried a multitude of signs.

As numbers grew, Alex Stein, one of the anticipated speakers, appeared and riled up the crowd.

This was the first sign of the turning energy of the group.

Protestors were then directed by SCDS leaders to march toward an entrance that was thought to be used by the speakers.

The situation escalated as an individual who entered the crowd wearing a Donald Trump hat attempted to enter the building.

After an altercation occurred between this individual and a protestor, the crowd was instructed to back away from the doors by police.

At this point, horses were used to push the group back.

As the sun set, darkness crept over the protest. A group of men dressed in black unleashed pepper spray into the crowd. Penn State Police stated that law enforcement didn’t discharge any pepper spray.

Around 7 p.m., the crowd at the Thomas Building was deemed an “unlawful disturbance”, according to a mass alert sent to the university community. People were told to leave the area or be subject to arrest.

About 20 minutes later, Penn State officially canceled the event.

Once the news of the event’s cancellation broke, the crowd of protestors migrated from the Thomas Building to west campus. From there, the protestors dispersed.

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About the Author

Teagan Staudenmeier

Teagan is a senior majoring in photojournalism and is one of Onward State's photographers. She is from Wilkes-Barre, PA, but is a Canadian at heart. On campus, she is involved in Photo Club and is an Aurora outdoor orientation leader. For more fun content, follow her on Twitter: @Teag_42.

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