From the Associated Press: "Military security contractor Blackwater Worldwide has pulled its plans to build a training facility in a remote area about 45 miles east of San Diego."
It's a modern-day story of David vs. Goliath, a grassroots victory of monumental proportions. After a long battle to block the building of Blackwater's mercenary base, the people of Potrero (population: 899) are rejoicing. Blackwater is gone. Gone from this pristine area of East San Diego County. Gone from California.
As you may know, for the last year the Courage Campaign has been working to help the people of Potrero get their message out to Californians. We wanted to amplify the stories of people like farmer Carl Meyer, a soft-spoken community leader who was the subject of a short, poignant video on our "Block Blackwater" web site.
In December, Carl and a slate of "Save Potrero" community leaders shocked the world, overwhelmingly winning a recall election to replace all five Potrero Planning Group members who had previously approved Blackwater's plans to build a mercenary base in their beautiful and serene small town.
Under people-powered pressure, Blackwater caved. You can watch our short, two-minute YouTube video highlighting Carl's activism and send a message of congratulations to the people of Potrero by clicking here:
Jan Hedlun is one of these amazing "accidental activists" -- one of the many residents of Potrero who didn't expect to devote over a year of their lives to fighting with Blackwater. They organized daily to battle Blackwater over noise, traffic, water, pollution, endangered species, and whether Blackwater was the kind of "neighbor" they wanted in their community.
Until the resounding recall of all five pro-Blackwater members, Jan was the only Planning Group member openly voicing opposition to Blackwater's plans. Under the intimidating glare of Blackwater, Jan ably represented the concerns of an overwhelming majority of Potrero citizens who did not want this mercenary training camp to ruin their town.
Jan has written a heartfelt letter of thanks to Courage Campaign members, recognizing the 13,137 people who signed our Blackwater petitions and the concerned citizens who wrote 1,079 letters to the people of Potrero after the California wildfires in October. Here's an excerpt:
"Thank you so much for your assistance during this very long year (plus). Thank you for your petition. Thank you for sending us those wonderful letters of comfort during the Harris Fire. Thank you for offering to support "Save Potrero" during the recall election but standing by to let the people Potrero handle our own campaign. Thank you all very much for helping us prove that the American way still exists."
As Jan said, thanks go out to everyone who helped defeat Blackwater in California, in Potrero and across California and the country. This is a victory for community organizing and bottom-up, grassroots people power. And it is a victory made all-the-more surprising by the fact that 62% of people in this traditionally conservative rural community voted for George W. Bush in 2004.
We've come a long way since the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003. And we've got a long way to go.
For now, Californians can savor this sweet moment. And, instead of battling Blackwater, Potrero residents can focus on rebuilding after the wildfires that ravaged their community.
Thank you for everything you did to make this wonderful news possible.