Guest Commentary: Professor McGonagall’s Lessons on the Proud Boys Attack at UC Davis


by Dillan Horton

Forgive me for nerding out for a bit but I haven’t been able get this comparison out of my head. It’s from the very first chapter of the Harry Potter series. In this chapter Dumbledore oversees the newly orphaned Harry Potter’s drop off to live with his aunt & uncle. Before Harry arrives, Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall are having a conversation about the apparent defeat of Voldemort, and McGonagall says that Dumbledore was the only person Voldemort was ever truly frightened of. To which Dumbledore replies, “You flatter me, Voldemort had powers that I will never have.” Then, right here in the first chapter of a seven-book series McGonagall delivers one of the most important lines in the series. She says, “Only because you’re too—well—noble to use them.” McGonagall suggests that even if Voldemort is more powerful, which she seems to dispute, it’s only because he is willing to utilize amoral weapons and tactics.

As I continue to reflect on the Proud Boys attack that occurred at UC Davis Tuesday evening, I keep coming back to that exchange between Dumbledore and McGonagall.  When there were nearly 100 peaceful counter protesters gathered outside of the UC Davis Conference Center how did the arrival of less than a dozen Proud Boys cause so much mayhem? Were they that much stronger? Were they better coordinated? At the end of it all I’ve come to the conclusion that their singular intent on violence fueled the chaos that we saw Tuesday evening. I remember the moment one of the counter protesters yelled “FASCISTS BEHIND US!” As I turned around I assumed this was an exaggeration, but there they were, running toward us in all black with their yellow Proud Boy logos visible. As soon as they were in striking distance from us they immediately did what they came to do, punching, kicking, pepper spraying, and even throwing metal crowd barriers into the counter protestors. If they are strong it’s only because they, like Voldemort, are willing to use the most amoral weapons and tactics.

As I’ve retold this story to curious friends, clients, my boss, and folks at the dog park another thing keeps coming up. Where was the administration or campus police? After I finish the story folks usually say, “I hope they were caught,” which is a reasonable expectation when a group of violent off-campus thugs assaults a group of counter protestors that were mostly students. In some of the later Harry Potter books we see some dangerous situations at Hogwarts and we know that Professor McGonagall doesn’t play about campus security. Prior to the Battle of Hogwarts in the 7th book we see her work with the other professors to put up defensive spells around the school, and toward the end of the battle we see her personally lead a 3-on-1 duel with Professor Slughorn and Kingsley Shacklebolt against Voldemort. Apparently UC Davis administration has a different idea of campus security, one that doesn’t involve automatically protecting the campus community from violent off-campus extremists.

It’s important to note that there were about half a dozen administration representatives standing a few yards away the entire time. One of them came up to pet my dog before things became intense. I’ve been engaged in advocacy and activism for the past 11 years, and I’ve attended countless protests in that time. Sometimes if law enforcement knows ahead of time that there will be intensely opposed groups they might pre-position officers to deter any violence. No such pre-positioning of UC Davis Police was done, nor were they called when violence broke out, while administrators stood a few yards away. As I was fleeing the area to get my dog back to the car we had to pass by this group of administrators standing idly by while their own students were being attacked on campus property.

After I got home I saw that UC Davis had released a statement and was dismayed that in the statement admin went out of their way to equate the actions peaceful protesters that are a part of their campus community with violent off-campus thugs that proudly identify with a white nationalist group. We all support the First Amendment and that requires us to accept a universe where right-wing ideologues have just as much a right to speak on campus as left-wing ideologues. What it does not require is a university to ignore threats to campus security, to let their students be assaulted, to “both sides” the situation, all to avoid upsetting SOME conservative students. Y’all need to get some lessons from Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall.

(Yes I was the founder and president of the Harry Potter Fan Club at my middle school)

Dillan Horton is a former candidate for City Council and past chair of the Davis Police Advisory Commission.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. S Steward

    There were no arrests?  Where is the Davis City Council and the University leadership?  This is not a casual event of no consequence.  People were perposefuly assaulted.  The Vanguard, the Davisite the Davis Enterprise are not covering this adequately.  What do you think?  Violence is being perpetrated by people who find it rewarding to harm others.  Charges should be filed and these violent groups disbanded or we, the peaceful majority, should find it necessary to take up our own means of defense.  Violence is not a casual debate of fiction.

    1. David Greenwald

      What do you mean the Vanguard is not covering it adequately? We have had one article, four commentaries, and I spent half of Wednesday pushing the university to answer for why they hadn’t called out the police.

    2. Walter Shwe

      I completely agree with Mr./Ms. Steward and Mr./Ms. Horton. Much more should have been done to eliminate the violence, arrest and prosecute the Awful Boys aka Proud Boys that created the violence. It’s deplorable that Administration officials and campus police did nothing to stem the violence. I suggest that UC Davis faculty issue a vote of no confidence in the current University Administration and Chancellor. To start, the officials that stood by should be fired.

    3. Dave Hart

      This event was not on city land and the city, arguably, may not have been aware of this event or what problems might arise.  I am reasonably well informed about community events, but had no idea this event was held or what it might mean so why would the city? I mean, the city doesn’t know what sprinklers are broken unless they get reported by citizens.

      The University, on the other hand, as Dillon Horton pointed out, seemed to think it was more important to protect the Proud Boys actions than to prepare for their very predictable show of force.  I think the University looks very bad here because, well, they reacted very poorly and were unprepared.  I start to wonder what agenda some or many of those mid-level administrators may have that they do not want to express out loud.  This didn’t “just happen”.

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