A lecture by Blackwater Worldwide founder Erik Prince at Beloit College was canceled Wednesday night after students piled chairs onto the stage where he was supposed to speak and pounded percussion instruments in protest.
Students draped a banner reading “ERIK PRINCE = WAR CRIMINAL” across the stage about 45 minutes after the lecture was scheduled to begin. The event was canceled shortly after.
Prince is widely known as the founder of Blackwater, a private military company. The company has been heavily criticized for its role in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2007, Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi citizens in Baghdad. U.S. military investigations after the incident found the Blackwater guards were at fault in the incident. Four guards were tried and convicted in U.S. federal court on charges stemming from the massacre.
Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student organization, expected to host Wednesday’s event in Moore Lounge in Pearsons Hall. About 175 people had filled the room for the lecture. Some left visibly upset after more than a dozen students swarmed the empty stage.
After a Beloit College representative announced the cancellation, protesters celebrated by cheering and beating drums. A statement from the college condemned the actions. “As an institution of higher learning, open dialogue on all topics is one of our core principles. Tonight’s events fell unacceptably short of this core principle, and we condemn the behavior of those who disrupted the event. The college will begin an investigation immediately.”