Citizens' Oversight Projects: As Blackwater Comes Under Fire in Iraq, Locals Turn Up Heat to Stop Blackwater West
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 2007
CONTACT: Citizens' Oversight Projects
Raymond Lutz, COPS Coordinator
Carol Jahnkow, Peace Resource Center
As Blackwater Comes Under Fire in Iraq, Locals Turn Up Heat to Stop Blackwater West
Residents Organize Largest Protest to Date at the Gates of
Planned Blackwater West Site Near Tiny Border Town
SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CA - September 25 - As US Congress and Iraqi government officials probe recent killings of civilians by the notorious private contractors in Baghdad, local opponents to the expansion of Blackwater USA will stage a major rally and encampment at the gates of the proposed "Blackwater West" site in Potrero, a tiny town in east San Diego county on Saturday, October 6th - Sunday, October, 7th. The event will happen the same week Blackwater chairman Erik Prince is invited to testify before the US House Oversight Committe on October 2, 2007.
Blackwater USA plans to build a training facility "Blackwater West" in Potrero, California, a small community in San Diego County 45 miles east of the City of San Diego. Residents of Potrero and San Diego have been organizing and began fighting this facility earlier this year on a number of issues.
Opponents point to the environmental impacts which will be enormous and long-lasting, including loss of sensitive habitat, depletion of an already fragile and shrinking water table, groundwater pollution and more. In addition, people living in Potrero will be exposed to noise, traffic and disruption of their quiet way of life.
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 underfire for acting above the law. The recent killing and wounding of at least a dozen innocent Iraqi civilians 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 two-day educational encampment and walk to the gates of the site are expected to draw hundreds of opponents of the project and to the expansion of Blackwater West.
The event will start on Saturday, October 6th at 9am with a hike to visit the Hauser Wilderness which abuts the project site conducted by the Sierra Club. From 2-5pm, educational seminars will be conducted at the Potrero Regional Park (see locations details below) and then an evening of music and spoken word at the rally site from 7-9pm.
Attendees will camp at the Potrero Regional Park campground, and other lodging is available nearby.
On Sunday, the special guest keynote speakers will make their presentations starting at 1pm and then the rally will proceed to march to the gate of the site and to an viewpoint that overlooks the valley.
DETAILS OF THE EVENT:
DAY 1 – ENCAMPMENT AND EDUCATION DAY: Saturday, October 6th
Camping at Potrero Regional Park.
9AM – 2PM: Sierra Club-led Hauser Wilderness Hike – Begins at Potrero County Park.
2-5 PM: Educational Workshops and displays on the environment, Blackwater West impacts on Potrero and the San Diego region, Potrero area Wildlife, Militarization of the Border and more (Potrero Regional Park) Speakers include Raymond Lutz (COPS), Jeanette Hartman (Sierra Club) and Jan Hedlun (Sole member opponent on the Potrero Planning Group.)
7-9 PM: Music and spoken word gathering celebrating peace, the environment and safe, livable communities (will be held on private property at corner of Round Potrero Road & Yerba Santa. The "Rally Site.")
DAY 2--RALLY AND MARCH, Sunday, October 7th
NOON: Music and gathering at the rally site.
1 PM: Special Keynote Speakers (to be announced)
2:30 PM. One Mile Walk to gates of proposed Blackwater site
Location of the Rally is on private property, (corner of Round Potrero Road & Yerba Santa;)
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, and the East County Democratic Club.
DIRECTIONS: Potrero Regional Park: From San Diego, East on 94. North on Potrero Valley Rd, Right on Potrero Park Rd. to the end. Rally Site: 23975 Yerba Santa Rd. From San Diego, East on 94. N on Potrero Valley Rd, Left on Round Potrero Rd. to 23975 Yerba Santa Rd.)