New York University – February 2, 2017

Protesters use pepper spray to prevent conservative actor from speaking on campus

New York, NY

Conservative actor and comedian Gavin McInnes was forced to cut a seminar short when student protesters interrupted his lecture. The demonstrators used pepper spray on McInnes as he was entering the event.

Key Players

Canadian Gavin McInnes is a conservative comedian, actor, and co-founder of Vice Media. He cut ties with Vice in 2008. In 2016, he founded the Proud Boys, a far-right group that he refers to as a “pro-Western fraternal organization” for men who “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” McInnes, a self-described “western chauvinist,” has used racial slurs in his writings and argues that women earn less than men because they are less ambitious. He has appeared on Fox News and The Blaze.

Further Details

Gavin McInnes was invited by the NYU College Republicans to give an on-campus speech on February 2, 2017. Elena Hatib, president of the student group, told the NYU Local, “Even though I don’t personally agree with everything he says, I think he brings up interesting conversation topics, especially for NYU and the current campus culture.”

Before the event, members of a student group called NYU Anti-Fascists, which said McInnes “has a long track record of using incendiary language to attract media attention and frenzy,” gathered along with non-student demonstrators outside NYU’s Kimmel Center, the New York Post reported.

Upon McInnes’ arrival at the facility, pushing and shoving broke out among the assembled protesters, according to video footage of the incident later posted to social media. It was unclear who started the fight. Protesters chanted “Nazi scum, your time has come” as he approached the center, with some demonstrators carrying signs or lighting “Make America Great Again” hats on fire, according to the Post. During the uproar, McInnes was attacked with pepper spray. He was treated by emergency responders in the bathroom of the Kimmel Center while security and university officials guarded the door, The Washington Times reported.

McInnes attempted to deliver his scheduled speech, but was interrupted after only a few minutes. About twenty minutes into his presentation, protesters began to enter the room, shouting over him. McInnes claimed to be “relieved” that those who tried to keep him from speaking “were not Muslim,” and later called an NYU spokesman “a dumb liberal asshole.” He was escorted out of the room.


Some protesters arrested, speaker ends speech early, departs campus

Eleven individuals were arrested on charges “including criminal mischief, drug possession, disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration,” reported the New York Daily News. None of them were NYU students. After McInnes left the Kimmel Center event, he tweeted, “Thanks for asking if I’m OK guys. I was sprayed with pepper spray but being called a Nazi burned way more,” accompanied by a yellow crying-face emoji. President Donald Trump also appeared to weigh in on the incident via Twitter, writing the next day that “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

External References

11 Arrested at NYU Protest Against Conservative Firebrand Gavin McInnes, DNA Info

Violent Protests Break Out on NYU Campus Over Gavin McInnes Seminar, Fox News

Protesters storm NYU over conservative speaker’s seminar, The New York Post

Conservative speaker Gavin McInnes pepper-sprayed by NYU protesters, The Washington Times

6 conservatives sparking free speech debates on campuses, USA Today

Conservative Speaker’s Appearance Ignites Protests at NYU, NBC New York

Trump Supporters at the DeploraBall, The New Yorker

Eleven arrested during protest against conservative comedian at NYU, Reuters

Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17

Uploaded January 15, 2018