VICE co-founder Gavin McInnes spoke for only three minutes without interruption until the jeers started. He exited the Rosenthal Pavilion in the Kimmel Center for University Life 20 minutes after he took to the podium and was escorted from a mixed room of fans and sneering students — once he was in the back, McInnes decided to leave the premises immediately.
McInnes will not be returning @nyunews
— Sayer Devlin (@metties) February 3, 2017
NYPD and NYU Public Safety Officers secured both the interior and exterior of the building, and even before he entered, McInnes was attacked with pepper spray. He was treated immediately by EMT while security and university officials waited outside the Kimmel bathroom door.
And once he started speaking, students verbally harassed him — they began the ridicule once McInnes made the first joke that did not bode well with the audience.
“When I got pepper sprayed, your eyes hurt obviously,” McInnes said as he imitated a squirt gun sound — the object the protestor used to attack him. “And then you get this sense of panic like ‘How do I know this isn’t acid?’ Oh yeah, this isn’t Islam.”
— Washington Sq. News (@nyunews) February 3, 2017
The crowd started booing and saying, “Whose streets? Our streets” in a call-and-response style chant, until McInnes’s speech was no longer audible.
Senior Vice President of Student Affairs Marc Wais tried calming the crowd multiple times and asked everybody to return to their seats immediately, but after failing multiple times, McInnes made fun of Wais as well.
“You’re ridiculous sir,” McInnes said after taking the microphone from Wais. “You’re dumb, liberal asshole.”
The crowd of protesters cheered after McInnes framed Wais as a supporter of the liberal left. After the event, Wais said that this incident was a follow-up to what happened last night at University of California, Berkeley.
“We are living in a new normal,” Wais said.
LS clinical professor Michael Rectenwald, also known as @antipcnyuprof on Twitter who originally began his account under the pseudonym Deplorable NYU Prof, also attended the event. During an interview inside Kimmel, a student began repeatedly calling him a Nazi.
“Get the fuck away from me, you better back off buddy; you don’t call me shit,” Rectenwald said to them. “I’m not a fucking Nazi. My father fought against the fucking Nazis, motherfucker. Call me a Nazi again buddy.”
Rectenwald left the room immediately after this incident, and he said that this exchange obviously demonstrated the failures of liberalism.
“You actually come out of this institution stupider” -McInnes @nyunews
— Sayer Devlin (@metties) February 3, 2017
“You have the moderator who is asking people to be reasonable when they have no reason,” Rectenwald said. “He’s appealing to logic and civility which they obviously do not exhibit or have the slightest idea about. Therefore what we see is a shouting match instead of the exchanging of ideas and intellectual activity. These people are obviously anti-intellectual and that is quite obvious. We have an anti-intellectual left.”
In a statement released an hour after the event concluded, the College Republicans expressed their disappointment that many students on this campus were disrespectful to people with varying political viewpoints.
“Our intention was not to advocate for McInnes’s views, in fact many of us differ with him when it comes to certain ideas,” the statement said. “The purpose of this event was to promote free speech and not to promote certain ideas. The purpose of our club is to give students the opportunity to meet and listen to conservative speakers from all across the political spectrum, especially since we are the largest conservative organization on campus.”
The club continued to say that it does not endorse the views of all its speakers and guests, so it was a shame that the protestors could not be respectful of the speaker and verbally attacked some of the club’s members.
The dissenters labeled themselves as anti-Nazi protesters and gathered outside Kimmel over half an hour before the speech began. Police lined up outside Kimmel and only allowed people with NYU IDs inside — passersby could not idle outside the doors of Kimmel or in the main lobby.
Police reported that five arrests were made at the event, and those arrested were handcuffed with zip ties.
— Diamond Naga Siu (@diamondnagasiu) February 3, 2017
CAS freshman Jack Gyner was one of the many students in the auditorium wearing a red Make America Great Again hat. Gyner said that he didn’t expect the protests to be as violent as they became, but he was glad that NYU allowed McInnes to speak at the university.
“I think if they’re going to silence opinions on the opposite side, I don’t agree with that — that’s fascism and that’s totalitarianism and that’s exactly what we’re here to try and stop,” Gyner said. “I think the timing is just about right for some intense political discussion.”
NYU spokesperson John Beckman believed that both those who protested and supported McInnes led to the event’s anarchy.
“Our principle at NYU is somebody who comes here to speak — who’s invited by a student organization — should have an opportunity to speak, but this event reflected well on no one,” Beckman said. “There were people in the audience who sought to drown out the speaker, and the speaker sought to bait the audience. It was an unfortunate way for the event to go. The idea is that even controversial or unpopular speakers should have an opportunity to be heard, and people who wish to protest should be able to do so in a way that does not obstruct the ability of others to exercise their right of free speech. This was unusual.”
Email the Natasha Roy, Jemima McEvoy, Sayer Devlin and Diamond Naga Siu at [email protected]