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College Speech Canceled

Chairs are piled on the stage where Blackwater founder Erik Prince was to speak at an event sponsored by the Young Americans for Freedom at Beloit College Wednesday.

BELOIT — Beloit College canceled a lecture by former Blackwater head Erik Prince Wednesday after protesters disrupted the planned talk.

Students piled chairs onto the stage where Prince was to speak at the small liberal arts college and pounded on drums ahead of the planned address, which was to be hosted by Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative student organization.

The school announced the event was canceled at about 8:15 p.m.

Prince, a former Navy SEAL, rose to prominence during the Iraq War when his private security company received lucrative government contracts and came under scrutiny when several Blackwater employees were involved in the shooting deaths of 14 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

More recently, Prince has advocated for replacing U.S. forces with private security operations in Afghanistan and Syria. He was interviewed as part of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation about a meeting he had with an associate of Russian president Vladamir Putin in the Seychelles shortly before President Trump’s inauguration. Prince is the brother of Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In a statement, Beloit College said “open dialogue on all topics is one of our core principles” and condemned the behavior of protesters.

Prince later held a private event at the nearby Hotel Goodwin, which was attended by about 50 people, according to the Beloit Daily News. He condemned the protests and the college’s decision as an infringement on his right to free speech.

“It’s sad the president and the administration of this college lacked the moral courage to enforce free speech and to defend free speech,” Prince told the newspaper. “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.”

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