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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | U.S. | Anti-War | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Activists Lock Down Entrances to 'Urban Shield' on its 10th Anniversary, 23 Arrested
The Stop Urban Shield Coalition seeks an end to the highly controversial military weapons expo and SWAT police training, publishes new report on community based alternatives for emergency response and preparedness.
(All photos by Asians for Black Lives.)
On September 9, activists chained themselves to the entrances to the Alameda County Fairgrounds to protest Urban Shield, the highly controversial SWAT training and weapons expo hosted annually by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. 23 activists were arrested, cited, and released. Over 500 community members from many cities across California, including Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, joined the Stop Urban Shield Coalition in a massive mobilization, march and rally that included powerful speakers, art, and musical and cultural performances. A broad coalition of grassroots community and social justice organizations, the Stop Urban Shield Coalition is amplifying the growing opposition to the militarization, policing, and violence in Black, Brown, and poor communities, and seeking to end Urban Shield.
Urban Shield brings together police units from across the country for 48 consecutive hours of highly militarized scenarios, a program that activists condemn as promoting further violence and an increased war mentality by police in marginalized communities. It is funded by the Department of Homeland Security through a grant program called the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), one of many controversial “War on Terror” efforts.
Participants in Urban Shield also include armed forces from around the world, many of which have been accused of war crimes and human rights abuses. This year, Urban Shield lists law enforcement units from Mexico and Taiwan. Israel, which is widely condemned for its abuses against the Palestinian population, has also been featured prominently in past trainings.
“The same repressive international forces backed by the US to oppress people across the world are coming together to train with police forces in our local neighborhoods. Urban Shield is literally spreading war on our communities both here and in our homelands,” said Nora Abedelal of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. “We are here today to stand with all communities against the militarization of police, and to demand an end to Urban Shield.”
Many critics have pushed back against Urban Shield’s claim of improving emergency preparedness and response, instead advocating for programs that address the key needs of communities without relying on a military style mentality.
"If the growing coalition succeeds in stopping Urban Shield once and for all, it would serve as a crucial model of resistance to police militarization for the rest of the country,” says Ali Issa of the War Resisters League. “Our national campaign to stop Urban Shield has shown us the desperate need to shift the hundreds of millions thrown at 'counter-terror' towards preparing for actual emergencies, from East Coast hurricanes to California's forest fires."
The Stop Urban Shield Coalition, along with one of its members the War Resisters League, has been collecting the stories of survivors of SWAT raids in order to uplift the voices of people impacted by the practices that Urban Shield promotes. “Across the country, we are seeing a growing normalization of militarized policing and SWAT deployment against people of color, particularly Black communities,” said Woods Ervin of Critical Resistance. “As a SWAT training program, Urban Shield is only expanding the violence that people face at the hands of police, and must be stopped immediately.” In the 1980s, there were roughly 3,000 SWAT raids a year; today, that number is up to 50,000. According to an ACLU report, Black people are up to 40 times more likely to be impacted by SWAT raids than white people.
The Stop Urban Shield Coalition has just published a report, detailing the devastating impact of Urban Shield, and highlighting alternatives to Urban Shield that promote community emergency response and disaster preparedness that are not based on policing and militarized trainings. The coalition sent the report to each of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors this morning, as well as to the supervisors in San Francisco County, which serves as the fiscal agent for Urban Shield and UASI in the Bay Area.
Organizers plan to continue their campaign to ensure that Urban Shield no longer takes place. “Our communities will not rest until the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, who have the authority to defund Urban Shield, put an end to this disastrous and damaging program,” said Sagnicthe Salazar of the Xicana Moratorium Coalition. “For too long, the Sheriff has gone unchecked in his drive to militarize and expand policing in the Bay Area. It’s time to defund policing, and build up our communities.”
(All photos by Asians for Black Lives.)