Xe (Really, Blackwater) Not Welcome Say Students

There is more controversy surrounding a private security contractor formerly known as Blackwater, the company that has come under fire in the past for its activities in Iraq.

In January, Southwestern College approved a trade agreement with Xe, the company formerly known as Blackwater, that grants the use of its campus in exchange for use of Xe's shooting range.

Protestors at Southwestern College demanded the college rescind the deal, arguing the deal hurts, not helps, students.

 “They are creating a system of brutality for violence and mayhem to exist,” argued one of the protestors, Gabriel Ivan Orendain-Necochea.

Southwestern wanted its police cadets to use the shooting range after being told its access to the range at Miramar wasn't guaranteed.

In exchange, the school offered Blackwater the use of rooms on campus.

“Do you want trained assassins, paramilitary lurking around the community of Chula Vista?” one of the protestors, Monte Johnson said outside the meeting.

Inside the meeting, people stood in line to make their commnets regarding the deal including some in support of Xe and their connection to the school.
"Blackwater is a private security firm. The only difference between them and other security firms is they have a much greater level of training and the understanding that at any moment they may find themselves in a firefight to protect the life of a foreign dignitary they've been hired to protect," said one supporter.

According to the school, there is no trade.  “We are not doing anything for Blackwater. In the regular contract it said they could use our facility but they have their own facility. They don’t want to use our facility.” said Raj Chopra, Ph.D., Southwestern College Superintendent.

A company spokesperson, Brian Bonfiglio, an Xe vice president, told the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this month that the company didn't ask to use the campus but were offered the opportunity as a gesture of goodwill.

“What is wrong with us providing a state-of-the-art facility to men and women who will potentially answer the call when we dial 911 and we need help?” Bonfiglio told the paper.

Blackwater was founded in 1997, initially to provide training to law enforcement and military but after September 11, the bombing of the USS Cole and the start of the Iraq War, the company built a large presence in providing security.
A 2007 shooting in Nisoor Square involving Blackwater guards drew outrage from politicians in Baghdad and Washington and demands that the company be banned from operating in Iraq.

Late last year, prosecutors charged five of the company's contractors — but not Blackwater itself — with manslaughter and weapons violations. In January, Iraqi officials said they would not give the company a license to operate.

After hearing from both sides, the Southwestern College Board didn't make a decision but instead, voted to discuss the contract at a later date.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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