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Oct 27, 22

On the Ground at Penn State: A Pittsburgh Anti-Fascist Reports Back

Report on the recent antifascist mobilization against Proud Boys founder, Gavin McInnes at Penn State. Originally posted to Filler Collective.

Penn State on 10/24 felt like a throwback to an earlier era of far right organizing. A campus administration too feckless to care about what was coming and a whole lot of determination from students to put a stop to things anyways. We shut that event the fuck down and should be proud of it.

Some Background

For those who didn’t catch it on October 24, 2022 Penn State’s campus in the ironically named Happy Valley was set to host a ‘comedy event’ featuring professional misogynist Alex Stein and founder of the Proud Boys Gavin McInnes. Resistance to the event was coordinated by students on campus through a variety of means – pressure on the administration to cancel an event that would surely attract fascists trying to fight students, a plan to get students into the hall to disrupt the event while ongoing, and finally a rally outside the building where the event was being held.

As is typical, the Penn State administration refused to openly acknowledge any of the risks associated with bringing the founder of a violent street movement into proximity with their students. They did of course say they disagreed with the views espoused by McInnes and held an event in a building far away from the white supremacist event to sap support from any potential counter-protest. The above sets the scene for the rally and all that ensued.

On the Ground

This section will briefly describe flashpoints that occurred over the course of the evening, in the order they occurred:

Alex Stein came out of the building to antagonize the crowd. He got spit on but not much else happened to him. There was a posse of right wing media there with their own security detail, one of whom was wearing a RWDS hat. While the confrontation was ongoing, people with megaphones attempted to march the crowd elsewhere, away from the friction.

Two Proud Boys in colors tried to pass through a crowd of students. One was stopped and turned back, while the other made it deeper into the crowd and eventually had to be extracted by police when he started shoving people and got his shit rocked.

A group of anonymous fascists wearing black hoodies and khaki pants approached a crowd in a formation. Multiple of them were carrying mace. When the crowd turned against them and began to close in, at least one of them unleashed mace on the assembled students and press before running away. Shortly thereafter, the event was announced to have been canceled.

Gavin McInnes and Alex Stein fled the event building while a Bearcat armored truck and other police prevented students from blocking their car. Run motherfuckers, run. We’ll see you again soon, I’m sure.


At times it seemed like there was a desire from people with megaphones to avoid confrontation with the fascists by moving the crowd away from them. No matter what you do, no matter how meek you are, people opposed to your work (the fascists, the administration) will accept nothing other than complete capitulation as ‘acceptable’ counter-protest. The ARA slogan ‘we go where they go’ remains the best approach when these people show themselves in public.

If you deliberately move an engaged crowd away from fash, you do two things: First, you’re indicating a desire for an event similar to the one PSU administration – far away and unable to directly confront the fascists. Second, and more importantly – unless you leave exactly zero stragglers AND manage to redirect incoming foot traffic away from fascists, those people are in danger. We know that the fascists like to jump people who are alone, isolated, vulnerable. Keeping a presence on top of them  warns passerby and can mobilize people to your cause. It can also make the fascists get jumpy and go back inside or somewhere else!

There were moments that went the other direction though to be proud of. When the Proud Boys tried to move through one crowd, the beautiful chant of “what’s that noise, fuck the proud boys” echoed off the buildings. When the anonymous fascists with mace pulled up, people called them out immediately, turned the crowd on them, and made sure they were confined. Later, a lone agitator was identified and people were specifically asked to stick to him to make sure he couldn’t keep harassing students.

It’s important to remember in crowds that even if you identify a threat people around you might not know what they’re looking at. It is imperative, even if it feels awkward to get LOUD and point it out. Yell “Hey he’s got mace!”, “He’s wearing Proud Boy clothes!”, etc. until folks start recognizing the threat. It is important as well to convey that these people are actually threats. Multiple students when informed about who a fascist was made it very clear they wanted to be further away from them, while others chose to engage. It is on all of us to make sure that everyone can make that choice as freely as possible.

After the fash cut the mace loose, people were in trouble from pepper spray exposure. At least five or six needed extensive eye flushing and decontamination. Others sprang to do that work with admirable skill and speed. The single use water bottles organizers had brought were put to use flushing eyes. Only a few people suggested using milk (DO NOT USE MILK) and we made sure that those exposed had people who could get them home safely.

I’m proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with the community at Penn State against the fucking grab bag of fascists that showed up on Monday and I’d do so again in a heartbeat. Your fight is our fight and we are with you always.

In solidarity,
– A Pittsburgh anti-fascist

photo: Screenshot via Idavox

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Filler is a radical zine & distro affiliated with Pittsburgh’s autonomous student network.

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