Students at Penn State are upset that the far-right Proud Boys founder was invited to speak there.
A conservative student group called Uncensored America has asked Gavin McInnes to speak at the school at the end of October.
Gavin McInnes, the founder of the far-right group the Proud Boys, is coming to speak at the prestigious US college Penn State on Monday. This makes the students there very angry.
The Proud Boys are an extremist group in the US that is often violent. New Zealand and Canada have called them a terrorist group. Many of its members believe in white supremacy, hate against Jews, or fear of Muslims. Five of its members were charged with crimes for what they did during the attack on the US Capitol on January 6.
Sam Ajah, a third-year student, said, “My friends and I are pretty upset.” “The university can’t just refuse to take care of anything. They give [McInnes] a place to speak, a way in, and a sense of legitimacy.”
Ajah, a 21-year-old geography major and president of the Penn State College Democrats club, is one of many students who feels strongly about the university hosting McInnes. Penn State is not canceling or banning the event, even though it is being put on by Uncensored America, a conservative student group, at a cost of about $7,000.
In a statement, the school said, “As a public university, we are required by the first amendment of the US Constitution to protect the right to free speech.” It also said that people like McInnes often use hateful language and criticized them for doing so.
Penn State has seen this kind of thing happen before. Milo Yiannopoulos, a British political commentator who is on the “alt-right,” was on Uncensored America last year. at a campus talk.
A few years ago, Yiannopoulos told a crowd at the University of Massachusetts that “feminism is cancer.” He often makes jokes out of his offensive comments. A red poster advertising his talk in the student union hall at Penn State said, “Pray the Gay Away.”
Students were also against that other event, but this upcoming talk has a different kind of tension that can be felt.
Mia Bloom, who used to teach at Penn State and studies extremism, conspiracy theories, and the far right, said, “I mean, Yiannopoulos is offensive and kind of a clown.”
“However, Gavin McInnes is dangerous. This event is meant to cause trouble. It’s not a matter of free speech if it puts the student community in danger.”
McInnes started the Proud Boys when he ran for president in 2016. The Southern Poverty Law Center says that white nationalists and neo-Nazis see him as a way to get involved with the far right.
Since then, people in his group have been going to Make America Great Again rallies and taking part in street riots all over the country. They are easy to spot because they wear black and yellow clothes.
“We will kill you. That pretty much sums up the Proud Boys. In 2016, on his Compound Media show, McInnes said, “We will kill you.”
Ajah and a lot of his friends won’t go to the protest against the talk on October 24. This is partly because they are afraid of violence. They think this is the best way to get the message across. Ajah wants students to give safety a second thought.
“As a black gay person, it’s not my place to go,” he said. “Why would I when people say mean things about you just for being you?”
Ajah doesn’t agree with Penn’s “lackluster and hands-off approach,” which was also criticized after Yiannopoulos spoke at the school last year.
Ajah said, “It’s not our job to check out or take into account speakers like this just because they are liked by some students.” “The university is just accepting what McInnes has done by turning a blind eye to it.”
When Kevin McAleenan went to Georgetown University’s law school to give a talk in 2019, he was basically thrown off the stage. McAleenan, who was then Donald Trump’s acting secretary of homeland security, couldn’t be heard over crowd chants like “Hate is not normal” and “Stand up, fight back.”
Since then, Georgetown has looked at its free speech policies again.