Blackwater embarrassed: rural Republican town sweeps out base supporters
Yuba Net.com (2007-12-11) Courage Campaign
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Author: Courage Campaign
Published on Dec 12, 2007, 10:55
In a stunning victory that shocked even the most optimistic observers, five members of an elected body that approved Blackwater's plans to build a mercenary base on the California border were overwhelmingly recalled by voters Tuesday night.
In Potrero -- a small, rural community that voted for George W. Bush over John Kerry by 25.8% in 2004 -- all five pro-Blackwater planning group members were rejected by significant margins (see preliminary results below). The pro-Blackwater members were replaced by a "Save Potrero" slate of candidates, led by Carl Meyer, newly elected to replace Chair Gordon Hammers, a staunch Blackwater advocate and defender. The recall election was the first opportunity for voters in the United States to demonstrate their disapproval of Blackwater's activities.
"I think this represents democracy in action. Our community spoke with a loud voice that we don't want Blackwater in Potrero. It's a huge shift in direction," said Meyer. "This is a great opportunity and I'm elated and excited to represent our community and protect our way of life. With the help of community members and leaders like Congressman (Bob) Filner, I think we can stop Blackwater. I think it's even possible that Blackwater might decide to withdraw their entire application, now that they won't be getting preferential treatment from our Planning Group."
Of 280 votes counted, (55% turnout) all five of the pro-Blackwater incumbents were turned out of office with at least 63% in favor of recall. Each of the anti-Blackwater candidates received no less than 71% of the votes. The new members will take their office upon certification of the results, expected Thursday. The new anti-Blackwater Potrero Community Planning Group will likely take power with the next meeting of the group, scheduled for Thursday night.
"Erik Prince and his Blackwater mercenaries never expected democracy in a small town to derail their merry ride to building a domestic private militia," said Rick Jacobs, Chair of the Courage Campaign. "Thanks to Carl Meyer and his fellow candidates, Blackwater just hit a significant speed bump. Maybe now that the people of Potrero have shown the way, our elected officials will join Congressman Bob Filner in trying to block Blackwater from building its base on the California's border."
A local grassroots group called "Save Potrero" spearheaded the recall of five Potrero Community Planning Group members who voted to approve Blackwater's plans to build a mercenary training base in this sleepy rural corner of East San Diego County. Blackwater plans to build this base for 360 staff and "students" on 824 acres of land just a few miles from the Mexico border, consisting of 15 firing ranges, a helipad, and a heavy vehicle operator's course covering the equivalent of 10 football fields.
"Not only will Blackwater's proposed paramilitary base disrupt the lives of its residents -- it will also threaten the pristine natural habitat of the Round Potrero Valley, which includes part of Cleveland National Forest and is adjacent to the proposed Hauser Wilderness preserve," said Rick Jacobs, Chair of the Courage Campaign. "The regular detonation of firearms would be a risk both to the fire-prone landscape as well as to the wildlife that currently calls that area home, including the golden eagle and the California condor. It would also increase traffic substantially, a primary concern to residents of this small town."
The Courage Campaign has produced a short documentary highlighting the activism of Carl Meyer, a leader of the "Save Potrero" group . The video featuring Meyer is included on "BlockBlackwater.com" -- a new web site and petition page launched by the Courage Campaign (developing as the campaign to block Blackwater's base continues):
The recall is just the first step in the process to keeping Blackwater out of Potrero and out of California. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has jurisdiction over this issue and will make a decision next year, after the county planning commission weighs in and an environmental impact report is completed.
The Courage Campaign has already collected over 13,000 signatures on letters to Senators Boxer and Feinstein and Governor Schwarzenegger asking them to oppose Blackwater's base. The Courage Campaign has been working against Blackwater in California since April and will continue to organize opposition as the fight moves to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
RECALL ELECTION RESULTS:
DECEMBER 11, 2007