FIRE is looking into Penn State’s justification for canceling a scheduled student-organized event featuring Gavin McInnes and Alex Stein.
Penn State has a duty as a state actor to protect the First Amendment rights of speakers to speak and their critics to protest. Credible threats and acts of violence must be addressed swiftly by law enforcement. Shutting down speech must be the very last resort. To respond otherwise is to enable an unconstitutional “heckler’s veto.” Allowing threats and acts of violence to shut down First Amendment activity only incentivizes more violence and less speech, particularly when the government has already “firmly denounced” the speakers and labeled their views “abhorrent.”
Penn State claims it canceled the event due to a “threat of escalating violence.” The university must be transparent about what led to this decision and explain why canceling the event was the only way to ensure the safety of speakers and protesters.
Regardless of what exactly led to the decision to cancel last night’s event, FIRE continues to insist that the most powerful answer to speech you hate is more speech, not violence. We stand with the vast majority of Americans who live according to this principle every day.