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Beloit College Cancels Erik Prince Speech Amid Protests

Former Blackwater contractor in Myanmar security venture
TIM SLOAN/AFP
ALANA MASTRANGELO

Administrators at Beloit College in Wisconsin canceled a scheduled speaking appearance by former Navy SEAL officer and Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince on Wednesday after student protesters banged on drums and created a barricade made of chairs on the stage where Prince was expected to deliver his remarks.

Erik Prince’s scheduled speech at Beloit College was delayed by at least 40 minutes while students took chairs and began stacking them on the stage, according to a report by Inside Higher Ed. Students then proceeded to drape a banner over the wall of furniture that read, “Erik Prince = War Criminal.”

Shortly after that, Beloit’s interim dean of students Cecil Youngblood announced that the event was canceled due to safety reasons. The student protesters reacted with cheers and banged their drums triumphantly upon hearing that they had successfully caused enough of a safety concern to prompt the event’s shutdown, according to a video taken of the incident.

“I believe that if a critical mass of students object to a speaker’s presence or a speaker’s platform, they should have a say in whether or not that speaker is welcome in our home,” said student Rose Johnson, according to Gazettextra.

One student group, Students for an Inclusive Campus, had a different idea with regards to protesting Prince’s speech, planning to host their own alternative activities — which included a drag queen show — during Prince’s scheduled appearance, according to Inside Higher Ed.

About 200 other student protesters gathered inside the room that Prince was scheduled to speak in and planned to do a “walkout.” But according Johnson, many student protesters decided to leave just fifteen minutes before the speech was supposed to begin.

“It’s sad the president and the administration of this college lacked the moral courage to enforce free speech and to defend free speech,” said Prince, according to a report by the Beloit Daily News, “Fortunately, President Trump will defend free speech and I think the college will be hearing from the court soon on this because enough is enough.”

Last week’s incident at Beloit is nothing new on college campuses, as there have been seemingly countless occurrences in recent years involving stifled speech at institutions of “higher learning,” which has even caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who recently signed an executive order requiring colleges and universities to uphold the First Amendment if they want to receive federal research funding.

The president’s order arrived just one month after conservative activist Hayden Williams was punched in the face at the University of California Berkeley while recruiting students for the school’s Turning Point USA (TPUSA) student group, an incident that TPUSA founder and executive director Charlie Kirk described as “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a TPUSA event in Chicago, Illinois, where he told his audience of conservative students and activists that “censorship is the tool of a coward” and that “it doesn’t take courage to silence free speech, it takes courage to defend it.”

“Due to disruptive protests and safety concerns, the event hosted by the Young Americans for Freedom featuring speaker Erik Prince had to be canceled to ensure the safety of all participants,” said Beloit College in a statement on Wednesday, “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,” added Beloit, “The college will begin an investigation immediately.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.

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