Knocking on the gates of Blackwater North

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118780618321296.jpg’, ‘Photo by Dan Kenney’, ‘Aug. 11, 80 citizens held a peace rally outside of the Blackwater North training facility in JoDaviess County, organized by members of Clearwater, a citizen’s activist group. Top photo, David Stocker performs.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118780610716875.jpg’, ‘Photo by Dan Kenney’, ”);

It was a hot, dry day in the rolling pastoral hills of Jo Daviess County Aug. 11. Beneath the bright sun, more than 80 citizens stood together at the gates of Blackwater North, Blackwater U.S.A.’s new training facility 7 miles north of Mt. Carroll.

It was the first time in the history of the United States a group of unarmed citizens joined together at the gate of a private training facility. In addition to citizens of Jo Daviess County, individuals from across northern Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan were also in attendance.

The peace rally was organized by members of Clearwater, a citizen’s group composed of local citizens and members of several northern Illinois Peace and Justice groups.

The Clearwater group hopes to draw attention to the national issue of military privatization and how that is affecting American troops and the nation.

The citizens are also asking how it is Blackwater, an international company that has already collected nearly $1 billion of taxpayer money, can expand a training site in an area zoned AG-1 without a public hearing.

Many residents were surprised Blackwater now leased the 80 acres owned by four law enforcement trainers. Local residents are also concerned about the increased road and helicopter traffic, and noise from additional shooting.

Another issue concerns conflicting information about who exactly Blackwater is training at this new facility.

Blackwater spokesman Anne Tyrrell, in a recent letter to the Freeport Journal-Standard, said Blackwater “provide(s) cutting-edge training to area law enforcement.”

However, when the Chicago Tribune visited the training site in July and interviewed trainees, two of the four interviewed were neither law enforcement nor military. In fact, one who identified himself as “a private businessman” was there for the five-day marksman’s course “wanting to work on his sharp-shooting skills.”

Also, when I visited the facility in April, I was told I could sign up for any of the courses marked “open enrollment,” which were all but four of the 26 courses being offered, in spite of the fact I was neither law enforcement nor military personal.

The Chicago Tribune also reported that trainees were coming to the site from as far west as California.

The Chicago Tribune reported July 31 that the University of Illinois was investigating “potential conflicts of interest involving the director of the school’s prestigious police-training institute and Blackwater U.S.A., the military contractor.

“The institute’s director, Tom Dempsey, signed an agreement in May allowing the state facility and private contractor to exchange staff and students and share facilities. The pact could give Blackwater a foothold in training candidates for sworn law-enforcement positions in Illinois.

“Even as he represented the institute, Dempsey has also been working as a Blackwater consultant in his spare time, top university officials confirmed. … July 19, two months after Dempsey signed the institute’s partnership agreement with Blackwater, he submitted a written request for time off to consult for Blackwater.

“University administrators, who were unaware of the partnership agreement, agreed to the 30-day leave of absence, which Dempsey requested so he could travel to Afghanistan to work for the North Carolina-based company in anti-drug-trafficking and police training of Afghan forces, according to university provost Linda Katehi.”

The Chicago Tribune article said the university pays 58-year-old Dempsey $118,178 per year. He is a former Marine and has been director of the institute since 2002.

Local and national issues pertaining to Blackwater U.S.A. and Blackwater North will continue to be addressed by Clearwater.

To learn more about Blackwater U.S.A., Blackwater North, war profiteers and the Clearwater citizens’ group, visit To read more about Blackwater U.S.A., visit

Assistant Editor Brandon Reid contributed to this article.

from the Aug. 22-28, 2007, issue

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