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Grand Rapids protests war criminal Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater

By Tom Burke

Protests against Blackwater founder Erik Prince

Grand Rapids, MI – More than a dozen protesters circled outside of the well-funded Acton Institute in downtown Grand Rapids on Feb. 18 chanting, “No to Prince, yes to peace, U.S. out of the Middle East!” As the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince is on tour to justify U.S. wars and occupations and promote private mercenary armies. Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra, responsible for lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, supported Erik Prince at the program.

Outside, protesters held signs and shouted, “Prince is a war criminal! He belongs in prison!” at the wealthy few as they dropped their keys with the valet parking. Acton Institute management ran in and out of the front doors, miffed about the protest. They called the police to try and shut it down, but anti-war activists continued their picket.

Erik Prince is a U.S. war criminal, arms smuggler and war profiteer, who made millions off the U.S. wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prince came to Grand Rapids to speak and sign his book: Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror. Mercenary army for profit

The founder of the private army Blackwater, Prince is responsible for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater was hired by the State Department under Bush during the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. With cover from the Bush Whitehouse, Blackwater operated outside the law and killed countless Iraqis and Afghans. Amongst the many notorious Blackwater war crimes was the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians and wounding 20 more at Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007. Prosecutions are still pending, seven years later.

Four Blackwater soldiers of fortune were killed and hung from a bridge in Fallujah in 2004 – which many consider the turning point, the beginning of the end, leading to the withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq.

Blackwater and its remnants were fined $50 million by the U.S. government for smuggling arms in 2012. This is a slap on the wrist for a company that held nearly $1 billion in U.S. government contracts.

Heavily-armed Blackwater mercenaries invaded New Orleans during hurricane Katrina, not to help poor people who lost everything and needed food and water, but to ‘stop looting.’

Unholy alliance

From Holland, Michigan, Erik Prince is the brother of Grand Rapids billionaire Betsy DeVos. The Acton Institute, run by a local Catholic priest Robert Sirico, sponsored Prince’s war talk. Acton claims to be “Integrating Judeo-Christian truths with free market principles.”

Mike Franz, the local coordinator for, asked, “What is this unholy alliance? What do the Acton Institute and Erik ‘Prince of Blackwater’ have in common?”

After the police arrived and shut down the use of the protesters’ bullhorn, Alex Gebhardt with the Left Forum of Grand Rapids explained, “We are outside Acton Institute to let the Prince and DeVos families know we are sick of war and their families profiting from misery and death. We don’t want any more ‘unsung heroes,’ as Prince calls foreign mercenaries who kill civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. While billions continue to be spent on U.S. wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, here at home there are deep cuts to unemployment, pensions, food stamps and education. Unions are being outlawed and wages driven down here in Michigan. We say ‘No to misery and death! No to war and poverty!’”

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