This weekend, I addressed a conference on Blackwater/Xe and other private armies in Stockton, Illinois, about 2 hours west of Chicago, where Blackwater has established a facility in Jo Daviess County (Here is some local media coverage). The conference was co-sponsored by the citizens’ group Clearwater and the Catholic Worker Movement. There were about 100 people in attendance, including representatives from several activist groups across the country. Among them, the folks from Blackwater Watch in North Carolina, Blackwater’s home state.
Other speakers who addressed the conference were Kathy Kelly, the co-founder of Voices for Creative Non-Violence and Col. Ann Wright. Kelly recently has been campoing out at Creech Airforce Base protesting the US bombing of Pakistan using weaponized drone aircraft. Col. Wright is an outspoken former US diplomat who reopened the US embassy in Kabul post-9/11 before publicly opposing the Bush administration’s wars. She has since worked tirelessly in campaigning against US war policy and for accountability for US torturers and their bosses. The conference comes as Blackwater continues to operate in Iraq and the Obama administration has made clear its intention to use private forces in US war zones, as well as in Israel/Palestine. (See here and here for details).
Today, activists are marching on Blackwater’s Jo Daviess facility where they will engage in a nonviolent direct action protest. Within the larger protest, twenty people are planning to do civil disobedience, which could result in arrest. “The citizens will be going onto Blackwater’s property to serve a notice of foreclosure on the property of a company that is morally bankrupt,” says Dan Kenney of Clearwater. “Even though they are making billions of tax dollars, Blackwater, who recently changed their name to Xe to hopefully escape public attention, is also being investigated for tax evasion, they are being investigated by the AFT for illegal possession of firearms at their North Carolina site, they are under investigation for illegal smuggling of weapons into Iraq, and are fighting in the courts nine wrongful death lawsuits. Five of their contractors are also facing voluntary manslaughter charges for the shooting in September of 2007 that led to the death of 17 unarmed, innocent Iraqi citizens.”
Below is the statement issued by the activists this morning:
STATEMENT OF FORECLOSURE
DELIVERED TO BLACKWATER (Xe) FOR
April 27, 2009
As Catholic Workers and other concerned citizens of the United States we come today to this northwest Illinois Blackwater training site in an act of nonviolent protest. We are here to make a citizens foreclosure on this property of a company that is morally bankrupt. We are here to reclaim it for the people of this nation who promote democracy and security by humanitarian efforts.
We stand here today as citizens who live in solidarity with and in service to fellow citizens who struggle with joblessness, homelessness, and inadequate wages. We are here to stop the flow of billions of tax dollars to the privatization of our military and the miniaturization of our police by companies like Blackwater; a company that is responsible for:
· Killing innocent Iraqi civilians
· Smuggling weapons illegally into Iraq
· Tax evasion
· Illegal possession of firearms
We are here to hold them accountable for all their illegal and immoral actions.
No matter how many times this company changes its name, it can run but it cannot hide from its bloody history or its lawlessness.