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Locals Confront Blackwater at Their Gates as, Iraq Concludes Blackwater Committed Murder

by Citizens’ Oversight Projects Tuesday, Oct. 09, 2007 at 12:50 AM
info@prcsd.org

As the Iraqi prime minister’s office determined that Blackwater USA shootings on September 16th in Baghdad was deliberate murder resulting in 17 civilian deaths, local opponents confronted Blackwater at the gates of the proposed “Blackwater West” site in Potrero, a tiny town in east San Diego county. Organizers estimated that over 300 people took part in the weekend's event, marching a mile from the rally site to the gates of Blackwater West.


Blackwater USA Under Fire:

In Baghdad, Iraq Goverment's Investigation Concludes Blackwater USA Committed Deliberate Murder

In San Diego County, 300 Residents and Protesters Confront Blackwater at the Gates of Blackwater West
Demanding That the Project Be Stopped Immediately

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CA (Oct. 7) – – As the Iraqi prime minister’s office determined that Blackwater USA shootings on September 16th in Baghdad was deliberate murder resulting in 17 civilian deaths, local opponents confronted Blackwater at the gates of the proposed “Blackwater West” site in Potrero, a tiny town in east San Diego county. Organizers estimated that over 300 people took part in the weekend's event, marching a mile from the rally site to the gates of Blackwater West.

“The event was a overwhelming success,” Raymond Lutz said, “despite the uncooperative attitude of Blackwater at the gate.” Lutz is of the coordinator for CitizensOversight.org and one of the key organizers of the event.

The protesters were stopped by a chain stretched across the road at the property line, just past the white Hummer of Blackwater’s Brian Bonfiglio. While protesters continued to chant “Stop Blackwater,” Lutz confronted Bonfiglio at the chain and demanded that the peaceful protesters be allowed all the way to the entrance gate to look over it into the valley. Bonfiglio cited property rights and did not allow the protesters to cross. The marchers peacefully turned back and climbed to a viewpoint nearby to see the magnificent and pristine Round Potrero Valley, where Blackwater plans its 824-acre expansion into California.

Just before the march to the gate, a rally included keynote speakers Rep. Bob Filner (CA-51), Lutz, and Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign and executive producer of the film “Iraq for Sale.” Other speakers included Jan Hedlun, Potrero Resident and Potrero Planning Group Member, Jeanette Hartman, Sierra Club, Land Use Committee, Billy Crawley, Potrero Resident and Candidate for Potrero Planning Group, and Jim Brown, of Veterans for Peace.

On Saturday, the event started with a hike to the threatened Hauser Canyon conducted by the Sierra Club followed by a number of educational seminars on Blackwater, Military Profiteering, Environmental Issues, and Militarization of the Border. There were 80-90 people at these educational events. That evening the attendees camped at the Potrero County Park campground with about 40 campsites used by the group.

On December 11, 2007, a recall election will be held to recall all the members of the Potrero Planning Group who voted to approve the project. “That recall election is essentially a referendum on the project,” Lutz explained. “If the recall is successful, the community has voted down the project. At that point, Blackwater should drop the project and spare the community any further agony.”

An Environmental Impact Report is being created for the project and it will likely be submitted for public review early next year. After a comment period, the project will be submitted to the Planning Commission and then to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Dianne Jacob is the key vote on that panel, as this project is in her district. Under fast-track processing being used for this project, it may be completed in mid-2008, only two years after the initial submission to the Department of Planning and Land Use.

Blackwater USA, known as one of the most powerful and secretive forces to emerge from the U.S. military-industrial complex and one of the greatest beneficiaries of the “global war on terror,” is increasingly under fire for acting above the law. The recent killing 17 people in Baghdad underscores the dangers this company poses to the community.

“There is no place for companies like Blackwater in a democracy," said Carol Jahnkow, key organizer and Executive Director, Peace Resource Center of San Diego. “Destroying communities for profit at the expense of the environment must stop. Profiting from war and human suffering must stop!”

“The public is waking up to the atrocities attributed to Blackwater and to the private mercenary soldier industry now staring us in the face," said Raymond Lutz, coordinator of Citizens’ Oversight Projects (COPS) and StopBlackwater.net. “The intimidating nature of these mercenary boot camps has kept locals from speaking out but, the tides have changed, when Blackwater USA tried to put in a jungle training camp in the Philippines they has to pull out after fierce public outcry. We can do the same here in San Diego County, we are resisting the further expansion of corporate mercenary armies and unregulated training of U.S. Armed Forces in residential areas.”

The event was sponsored by the Peace Resource Center of San Diego, the San Diego Coalition for Peace & Justice, Citizens' Oversight Projects (COPS), San Diego Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Activist San Diego, San Diego SUN, San Diego Puppet Insurgency, North County Coalition for Peace & Justice, San Diego Renters Union, and endorsed by the Green Party, the Democratic Party of San Diego County, the East County Democratic Club, and the Courage Campaign.

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