The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) Club invited former Blackwater Worldwide CEO Erik Prince to speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 03/27/19, in the Moore Lounge of Pearsons Hall. YAF had followed the appropriate policies and requirements to have a guest speaker on campus. Recognized student groups have that right.
The Beloit Police Department was on the scene, although we requested that they only maintain a presence outside of Pearsons Hall, in case of an extreme need for their assistance. Campus leadership agreed prior to the event that neither we, our security nor the police, would physically restrain or physically remove any protesters at the event unless absolutely necessary. If needed, we had planned to move the venue to the Weeks Lounge and only allow access to Mr. Prince, YAF and a few others. The event was open to the public and there were about three hundred people in attendance.
Shortly before the event was scheduled to begin, a group of four students arrived at the Moore lounge loudly banging on drums and cymbals. We spoke with the students, who stated that they intended to play the drums and cymbals throughout Mr. Prince's speech. We attempted to reason with them, but they refused to comply with requests not to play the drums during the speech. The students made it very clear that they would not disperse unless we had them restrained and carried out. Again we asked them to leave the event, but they refused to do so.
The group of students began to play their drums and cymbals intermittently. Much of the crowd began clapping and shouting. It was obvious that short of requesting assistance from the Beloit Police Department, and possibly restraining and/or arresting students, which may have resulted in injuries. Controlling the individuals drumming did not appear to be possible.
At about 7:30 p.m., a large group of student protesters stood up together and left Moore Lounge to attend other events planned for that evening in Pearsons Hall. Emptied seats were then filled by other event attendees.
At that time we spoke to YAF and Mr. Prince about the situation. During that time, an exchange between protesters and other attendees intensified in Moore Lounge, to which security responded, but the group of students with the drums moved down the northeast stairwell of Pearsons Hall, while continuing to play their drums. Minutes later, they came up the southeast stairwell and were about to enter the Moore Lounge again. I (Bruce) was concerned about another confrontation between them, so I stood in front of the group to block their access to Moore Lounge. One of the group members pushed up against me and continued to push against me until it was obvious that they would not relent without a struggle, so I let them enter the lounge.
The group then walked through the crowd beating their drums and moved toward the west hallway of Pearsons Hall to confront Mr. Prince and members of YAF. We attempted to block them from entering the west hallway. YAF members attempted to block them as well, but I got between the two groups to prevent a physical altercation and keep students from entering the hallway. I (Bruce) was pushed from behind. Mr. Youngblood told the group that they were getting totally out of control, when one member of the group stated that he was attempting to go to the restroom.
By that time, Mr. Prince and the YAF members had left the area.
Security Officer Haugen radioed me to return to the Moore Lounge and Mr. Youngblood and I returned to find that the protesters were stacking chairs up on the stage and some protestors were throwing chairs onto the stage. Some of the chairs had been stacked neatly, but there were a number of areas where the chairs had been piled haphazardly on top of each other. We spoke with the protesters and got them to stop putting more chairs up on the stage, as we were concerned that the chairs might topple and fall on someone. While this was occurring, two people were displaying protest signs while the group of students continued to beat on their drums. One draped a sign which read “Erik Prince = War Criminal” over the front of the chairs on the stage. Students and members of the community, who had come to hear the speech, began to leave the Moore Lounge, as it was obvious that the protesters were not going to allow the speech to take place.
At that time, it was decided that we would need to cancel the event for the safety of our students, and to avoid further escalation that would necessitate involvement from Beloit Police.
Cecil and I went outside to speak with Mr. Prince and the YAF members and let them know that we intended to cancel the event.
Cecil and I returned to the Moore Lounge to announce that for safety reasons the speech had been cancelled. Many of the protesters cheered and then assisted in taking all of the chairs off of the stage.
Most of the protesters left the Moore Lounge in an orderly fashion a few minutes later.
No one was injured and no one was arrested.
Bruce Heine, Director of Security
Cecil Youngblood, Interim Dean of Students