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OPD, Urban Shield, and Israel (PDF Posters)
In Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis in Missouri, riots broke out for the second night after police shot and murdered 18-year old unarmed Michael Brown. People clashed with officers, looted stores, and set fires. As one man stated, "I just think they got a taste of what fighting back means." As people prepare to take to the streets across the West Coast in an attempt to block Israel ships in solidarity with Palestine - the events in Ferguson seems worlds away. But the connection between American police forces and Israel is much closer than most think. Former Oakland Police adviser Bill Bratton for instance, has worked with both the OPD and Israeli defense forces. Moreover, the upcoming Urban Shield conference set again in Oakland, will feature a meeting of the minds of both American and Israeli policing agencies. For both governments the goal is the same; to win an unending counter-insurgency against a population it seeks to contain. We present you with several new FireWorks posters (PDF) for printing as well as an article from EastWest #2.
Boots to Our Necks, Guns to Our Heads
from EastWest #2
People took to the streets across the Bay Area against Israel’s now month long onslaught against the impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip. Israeli troops and armored columns continued pushing into the territory in an invasion that bombarded the area from air, land, and sea. As of this writing, the death toll has risen over 600, while the number of wounded is in the thousands. What is unfolding in Gaza is a calculated and savage act of collective punishment and war against a largely defenseless population carried out with the full and open support of Washington and elites and governments across the globe.
In Turkey, demonstrators occupied and set fire to the Israeli consulate and in Paris, France, pro-Palestinian protests have been banned by the government and in response people have clashed with police and also disrupted rail-lines. Across the world, people marched and rallied as they attempted to expand the struggle of the Palestinian people to end the occupation. But while people are hitting the streets in the Bay Area to protest Israel, many are unaware of the connection between the Israeli government and the city of Oakland. William “Bill” Bratton, is a former police chief and commissar that has worked extensively in New York, LA, Boston, and now Oakland.
In the wake of the Occupy revolts, Bratton was hired as a consultant for the city of Oakland in January of 2013. Likewise, Bratton has also consulted police departments in the UK in the wake of massive riots in response to a police murder. In recent years, Bratton has also worked with the Israeli Police (Mishteret Yisrael). Through Bratton, Israel and American police forces have traded notes on what they have in common putting a boot to the throat of a large population of poor and oppressed people.
As Electronic Intifada wrote: “[Bratton and the] LAPD attended the Big Data Intelligence Conference in Herzliya, where officers salivated at the prospect of using invasive, abuse-prone Israeli surveillance products (used to control Palestinians) on the people of Los Angeles (the brown, black and politically active ones, of course).” It’s no surprise that OPD are now pushing for the use of drones and that the Department of Homeland Security is flooding the city with money towards mass surveillance projects such as the Domain Awareness Center, whose main goal was the monitoring of protests and social struggles. All the while, poverty and the stratification between rich and poor continues to skyrocket.
Bratton’s recent comments at a security conference in Israel are very telling: “As my country moved into the 1980s there were several additional societal trends that began to have a significant negative impact on our ability to keep our streets safe. The growth of a drug market and a drug culture, particularly the more problematic drugs of heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine. The increasing number of young people coming out of a society that was no longer educating them, no longer controlling them, a dissolution of many of the families in our society, particularly among the poor and in the minority communities.”
Of course what Bratton doesn't mention is that these social problems were by and large brought on by rising unemployment, US wars such as Vietnam, and also the government pumping crack cocaine into the black community as a means to destabilize it and raise money for the Contras (anti-communist forces) in Nicaragua. In the Bay Area, under Reagan’s reign as governor, funds for higher education were also cut. Reagan “didn’t want people to go to school to protest” in the wake of the Berkeley riots that Reagan personally had suppressed, leading to deaths and injuries.
Looking at Bratton’s career, we see a pattern emerge. From the UK to Los Angles, Bratton is brought in as a consultant in the wake of riots. In New York, his policies lead to the practice of ‘stop and frisk’ and paved the way for the mass incarceration of vast amounts of people as well as attacks on the squatting and guerrilla gardening movement in the 1990’s.
Seeing the problem of insurgency among the poor as a problem of ‘broken windows,’ (that larger crimes and rebellion grow from smaller ones), police sought to clamp down hard on small and petty disturbances. As Bratton stated at the Israeli conference, “[New York] in the 1980s and 1990s was a very frightening experience to walk the streets — the aggressive beggars, the prostitutes, the gangs, the filth, the graffiti. It is a city today that is vibrant, it is alive, it is safe. On the subway system, the graffiti is gone, the beggars are gone, the vandalism is gone.” But of course, Bratton isn’t talking about an improved quality of life in American society, especially in poor and working-class communities. Instead, he’s describing a perspective that sees everyone as a potential insurgent and every petty offense as a possible outbreak of rebellion.
The current police strategy uses the carrot as much the as the stick. Since the 1970s, US law enforcement began a program of ‘community policing’ in which departments sought to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the population they were in turn harassing, arresting, and incarcerating. This combined effort of zero tolerance and community policing has come to be known as ‘counter-insurgency,’ the ultimate goal of which is the quelling of potential rebellion so that future uprisings and riots do not threaten the established order.
Oakland rallies against the Urban Shield program (Darin Bauer | Indybay.org)Like in New York, Bratton’s approach to policing also helped facilitate gentrification. The massive stop and frisk searches, the climbing rate of incarceration, the sweeping up of homeless people, and the destruction of squats and autonomous zones – all helped pave the way for a rapidly gentrifying city. This is a process that is repeating itself in Oakland just as it did in New York and LA. This year, from September 4-8, various local and regional police departments will converge in Oakland for the Urban Shield conference, which will help train police in various counter-insurgency techniques. Several years ago, police trained at Urban Shield to take out protesters carrying banners that read “We are the 99%!” and “No War For Oil!” This clearly shows who they are training to suppress.
While the events happening in Gaza seem horrific and far away, there are clear connections between the government which oppresses and rules over us and the government that occupies Palestine. If those that rule over us are trading notes on how to contain our resistance, we too must link up with each other and expand our struggles.