We Put an End to Urban Shield!

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On Tuesday, March 27th, the Stop Urban Shield coalition put an end to the largest militarized SWAT training in the world. Urban Shield takes place in the Bay Area on the weekend of 9/11 each year, and is a war games training and weapons expo that involves international and local law enforcement agencies and emergency responders.

After more than six hours, and hundreds of people gathered to speak out and give public comment opposing Urban Shield, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to put an end to Urban Shield as of 2019. “Urban Shield as we know it ends at the conclusion of this vote,” stated Supervisor Carson. Four out of the five Alameda County Supervisors, led by Supervisor Carson and Chan, voted to end the program.

Urban Shield represents everything our movements are fighting against — from collaborating and training with ICE, hosting the white supremacist militia the Oath Keeperstraining with and sending officers to apartheid Israel, glorifying policing and militarization, exploiting tragedies and natural disasters and public health needs, and continuing to align with Alameda County Sheriff Ahern’s support of the Trump Administration — Urban Shield has no place in the Bay Area or anywhere.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Bay Area for once again setting a precedent for the rest of the country against racism, repression, militarism, and state violence. Ending Urban Shield reminds us that we can win through cross movement building and strong organizing. This victory comes after years of organizing. It is a testament to our ability to shift power and win!

Our work continues! Let’s continue building strong and health communities as we do away with militarization!

Letter of Support to AC Supervisors for Backing Communities


If you’re with a community organization, faith group, labor union or any other kind of association, please sign on to this letter here.

Dear Supervisor Chan, Carson, and Valle,

We wanted to send you a quick note of gratitude for your decisions to approve the recommendations put forward by the county’s Ad Hoc Committee on Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). We know that your decision was not an easy one and that there is still much work to be done. However, we believe that your vote will expand possibilities for better, more effective emergency and disaster response in Alameda County. We also believe that this sets a precedent for other counties and cities across the country.

While much of the conversation, public testimony, and advocacy has called for an end to Urban Shield—and the divisive and problematic values and impacts embedded within it—we have also taken much effort to advocate what we’re for: A whole community, inclusive approach that will give our first responders, public institutions, and communities the best chance to respond, save lives, and rebuild if disaster or emergencies strike. You brought this issue to a public setting and built venues, such as the 2017 Task Force on Urban Shield and the Ad Hoc Committee, where the input of first responders, community health experts, and community leaders could be heard, their expertise considered, and their energies put to work reshaping how funding is used. We thank you for this not only because this pulled decision-making and implementation out of the shadows, but because it also sets us on a solid footing for the progress that still needs to be made. As you know, it is the most marginalized and vulnerable communities that will endure the most when emergencies happen. This is why we are so invested in making sure training and response is expanded and improved. We hope that we can continue to work with you and the Board. We look forward to supporting you and to taking bold steps forward. Thank you for your leadership.

California Nurses Association
Public Health Justice Collective
Stop Urban Shield Coalition

American Friends Service Committee
Arab Resource and Organizing Center
Critical Resistance
Jewish Voice for Peace – Bay Area
Justice Council of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland
Rev. Michael Yoshii, Sr. Pastor at Buena Vista United Methodist Church
Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center

Sheriff’s Office chooses to lose funding rather than back County’s emergency preparedness decisions

Press Release – Friday, March 15, 2019

Dublin – After the Alameda County Sheriff refused to back recommendations passed and reaffirmed by the County Board of Supervisors this past Tuesday, the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative Approval Authority (BAUASI) voted yesterday to redistribute funding for emergency preparedness trainings and exercises to various cities and counties in the region.

During the meeting, the BAUASI chair voiced support for the Alameda County’s Ad Hoc Committee and its recommendations, which seek to address Islamophobia and a culture of militarization in emergency preparedness exercises. County officials that were present at the meeting – except for the Sheriff’s Office – stood by the Board’s Tuesday vote. The BAUASI vote to reallocate funding debunks Sheriff Ahern’s baseless claims that his Supervisors’ support for the recommendations signaled an end for funding and emergency preparedness trainings.

“In light of the devastating attacks against the Muslim community in New Zealand, we are ever more determined to see through the development of emergency preparedness programs that are not steeped in the same Islamophobia of Urban Shield,” stated Lara Kiswani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

Additionally, yesterday’s discussion and vote was another illustration that the Sheriff’s Office is more interested in pursuing its own interests rather than representing the will of Alameda County. The BAUASI vote was based on an assumption that Alameda County did not pass the Memorandum of Understanding – even though Supervisors did just that on Tuesday. Despite numerous representatives from the Alameda County Ad Hoc Committee and Supervisors’ offices stating the facts to BAUASI, the Sheriff’s Office refused to comply or back the county’s decisions.

“The Sheriff’s Office is simply wrong about the funding. It has been consistently wrong, and has misinformed the Board of Supervisors and now BAUASI that Alameda County’s vision for more expansive and demilitarized disaster response trainings will mean the end of trainings,” said Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. “Unfortunately, because the Sheriff didn’t get his way, he’s now acting out and harming the interests of Alameda County. But with Bay Area UASI’s decision to reallocate funding, we are looking forward to seeing how emergency preparedness will be strengthened and redesigned to serve the Bay Area communities in a way that Urban Shield was never set up to do.”

Alameda County’s vision for a new way forward for disaster preparedness also received praise from other counties in the Bay Area. President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Norman Yee stated, “Having condemned the highly controversial Urban Shield program, I applaud our neighbors across the bay in Alameda County for their leadership in shifting the course away from militarization and towards emergency preparedness. This moves the whole Bay Area toward a vision of disaster response and resilience that is inclusive, transparent, and focused on communities, especially on those who are most vulnerable in the face of disasters. As Board president, I will work to ensure that San Francisco continues on this path in the next year.”

“I absolutely support emergency and disaster training, but my worry has been that our involvement in the Urban Shield program has also been about increased militarization of police forces,” commented San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. “The decision of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors reflects a positive and responsible shift in prioritizing demilitarized emergency preparedness training.”

In 2020, BAUASI will seek to issue a new Request for Proposals for a regional exercise that prioritizes community participation and training, and more closely reflects Alameda County’s recommendations. Yet because of Sheriff Ahern’s unwillingness to accept that Urban Shield and its militarized model is a thing of the past, Santa Clara appears interested in stepping up as the county to run future exercises.

“Given what’s at stake, it’s unfortunate that the sheriff seems to be playing politics. Yet, we are still committed to supporting our Alameda County officials to implement robust emergency preparedness models for our communities and first responders,” said Isaac Ontiveros of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition. “As residents, we were excited for Alameda County to be the place where inclusive and sustainable training would be implemented. But we are committed to working with our decision makers to support their strong recommendations elsewhere in the Bay Area if the Sheriff remains unwilling to get with the program.”

We Defended Our Victory Against Urban Shield!

A Huge Victory for Demilitarization in the Face of the Sheriff’s Threats

On Tuesday, the Stop Urban Shield coalition had a significant victory against the Sheriff and for community-centered preparedness! After we mobilized and provided hours of public comment in support of demilitarized emergency response, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors  (BOS) voted to adopt nearly all of the recommendations for community-based, demilitarized disaster preparedness exercises for the Bay Area.

Please take a minute now to write the Supervisors thanking them for their decision!

Among the powerful recommendations that were passed are:

  • Dumping the name “Urban Shield” for any future exercises
  • Eliminating SWAT deployment scenarios
  • Getting rid of the weapons expo
  • Eliminating any competition aspect, militarized or otherwise, from exercises
  • Urges that timing of emergency preparedness exercises are sensitive to community concerns (addressing the fact that Urban Shield was always on the weekend of 9/11)
  • Institute transparent and community-inclusive oversight that ensures these recommendations are implemented

This victory comes in the face of the sheriff attempting to counter-organize against the community and filling the room with law enforcement and proponents of Urban Shield. In an attempt to sabotage the years of work, and the democratic process put in place by the supervisors, he circulated a letter in the 11th hour claiming that the most important recommendations would go against the County’s standing contracts, and argued for them be rejected as a whole. However, due to our organizing, the  Supervisors voted with the interests of the people.

We are excited to live and work in a County that has prioritized community-preparedness and demilitarization, and for all of us to participate on this new path towards health, safety, and well-being. Stay tuned for more ways stay engaged!

Joining Us in Writing a Note Thanking the Supervisors:

Sample Script

Dear Supervisor _________,

I am writing to thank you for your strong leadership on Tuesday the 26th in standing with Alameda County communities and approving the recommendations on disaster response exercises. Your commitment to demilitarized and inclusive emergency preparedness programs will truly contribute to building strong and resilient communities.

Contact Information:

Keith Carson (District 5)

Nate Miley (District 4)

Wilma Chan (District 3)

Richard Valle (District 2)

  • Direct email: Richard.Valle@acgov.org
  • Legislative aides: Christopher.Miley@acgov.org & cinthya.munozramos@acgov.org

Feb 26: Urban Shield is Gone – Let’s Keep it that Way!


On February 26th, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will be voting on recommendations that call for community-centered, demilitarized emergency preparedness in the Bay Area. Come urge them to vote yes, and let them hear you before the 26th!

Tuesday, February 26th

1221 Oak St, Fifth Floor
Oakland, CA 94612

How We Got Here

Last September, we held a powerful rally outside the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office during what was the final Urban Shield war games training. The rally corresponded with the People’s Climate Mobilization, and centered the importance of fighting militarization and building community strength and resilience in the face of the increasing natural disasters our planet is facing.

Since then, and into this year, an Alameda County Ad-Hoc Committee appointed by the Board of Supervisors has met and finalized a report for what disaster preparedness in the Bay Area can and should look like without Urban Shield. The committee has provided powerful recommendations to the Board of Supervisors geared toward community-based emergency preparedness, de-escalation, and demilitarized disaster response. The recommendations include:

  • Eliminating SWAT teams and competition from emergency preparedness exercises
  • Eliminating the weapons expo that puts private interests and weapons manufacturers above the goals of whole community preparedness
  • Ensuring that the majority of people responsible for implementing exercises are from the key disciplines of Fire and Emergency Managers, as well as community organizations serving vulnerable populations, rather than most being law enforcement
  • Changing the name “Urban Shield” for exercises
  • Dedicating $5 million of funding for the Health Care Services Agency and Social Services Agency to carry out emergency preparedness training and exercises

As we anticipated, Sheriff Ahern is in denial about losing the fight for Urban Shield and is scrambling. This is business as usual for the Sheriff – to attempt to completely ignore decisions made by the Board of Supervisors that were the result of community organizing.

Yet the Stop Urban Shield Coalition has built power, and the Sheriff will not succeed – when we act to protect these gains. As both common sense and evidence shows, the violence of policing will never create healthy and resilient communities, but is rather a public health threat. Let’s be ready to defend our tremendous victory this year, and build the demilitarized, community-centered alternative to Urban Shield!

Take Action and Call Your Supervisor!

Please make your call before February 26th. If you don’t know which Supervisor’s district you live in, you can find out here. Below is a sample script you can use – we *highly encourage* you to personalize the script while keeping to the Stop Urban Shield Coalition’s main message.

How to Contact:

District 1: Supervisor Haggerty – (510) 272-6691, ask for Josh Thurman
District 2: Supervisor Valle – (510) 272-6692, ask for Chris Miley
District 3: Supervisor Chan – (510) 272-6693, ask for Dave Brown
District 4: Supervisor Miley –  (510) 670-3691, ask for Erin Armstrong
District 5: Supervisor Carson  – (510) 272-6695, ask for Shahida Lacy

Sample Script:

Good afternoon,

Thank you for your leadership in taking steps to end the divisive and harmful Urban Shield program. Now is the chance for Alameda County to proactively design and implement disaster preparedness programs that are effective, humane, and community-centered. The recommendations that have been approved by the Ad Hoc Committee are a much needed step in the right direction. These include: 

  • Eliminating SWAT teams and competition from the exercises
  • Eliminating the weapons expo that puts weapons manufacturers and private interests above the goals of whole community preparedness
  • Dedicating resources for the Public Health Department to conduct emergency preparedness exercises.
  • Getting read of the notoriously toxic Urban Shield label
I urge you to continue to embody strong leadership for the county’s communities, and to give Alameda County residents the resources they deserve by voting to adopt the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations during your meeting on February 26th.

Rally for Community Resilience in the Face of Climate Disasters

A big thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate our victory against militarism and continue to send a resounding message to the Alameda Board of Supervisors that: militarized policing is not a substitution for real emergency preparedness!

Check out some great pictures from the rally and stay tuned for additional updates.


All pictures taken by Brooke Anderson.

Sept 7th – Rally for Community Resilience in the Face of Climate Disasters

Join the Stop Urban Shield Coalition as we rally against the last Urban Shield to take place!

Coinciding with the Peoples Climate Movement – Bay Area mobilization, we will be rallying against the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office hosting of the final Urban Shield militarized war games and weapons expo. While the Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement officials justify the need for militarized policing programs by citing a need to respond to emergency situations and disasters, we know that true emergency preparedness comes from building up community strength, response, and resilience.

Join us for a powerful rally and mobilization as we draw the connection between militarism and climate change, and demand real community based preparedness and responses to natural and man-made disasters that do not rely on militarization.

Press Release: Stop Urban Shield advocates sue City of Berkeley for police brutality at 2017 Berkeley City Council meeting


Press Contact:

Rachel Lederman – 415.350.6496 – rachel@bllaw.info, Civil Rights Attorney


Click here to view the Legal Complaint

Berkeley – The City of Berkeley is being served today with a federal civil rights class action lawsuit challenging the Berkeley Police Department’s (BPD) brutality against activists and journalists during a demonstration against the city’s participation in the highly militarized Urban Shield policing program.

This lawsuit comes on the heels of a Monday, July 23rd, 2018, decision when the Berkeley City Council voted to allow BPD to participate in the Urban Shield exercises this year, which are slated to be the last. Mayor Jesse Arreguin was the deciding vote, and chose to turn back on his public promises by not withdrawing the police department from the militarized war games.

The lawsuit concerns a prior City Council meeting at Longfellow Middle School on June 20th, 2017, when hundreds of people turned out to speak against Berkeley’s continued participation in Urban Shield. This 2017 meeting began a year long process which culminated in the Council vote this week.

At the 2017 meeting, when activists peacefully unfurled a banner reading “Stop Urban Shield, End the Militarization of our Communities,” the Berkeley Police immediately responded with aggression and violence, applying unnecessary pain holds and forcefully herding protesters out of the auditorium with baton shoves and blows.

Police hit Plaintiff Brooke Anderson – a photojournalist who presented officers with her press pass – multiple times on her arm, which was already in a visible brace due to a prior injury, and her camera was forcefully shoved into her face. The officers grabbed Plaintiff Dylan Cooke in an excruciating pain hold and arrested her without giving her any chance to leave or comply. Outside the school, when people continued to chant in opposition to the violence of Urban Shield, the police advanced on the crowd aggressively, wielding their batons. Police clubbed Plaintiff Lewis Williams, a 73 year old retired elementary school teacher, on the head, and hit and shoved a number of other protesters, even as the activists showed no threat and attempted to calm the officers.

“I felt this blow on top of my head and then blood came streaming out,” said Williams, a longtime Berkeley resident. “It seemed totally gratuitous that they would hit me like that. I didn’t see it coming. I am positive though that the only weapons or sticks in the vicinity were the batons being forcefully wielded by the police officers right in front of me, including one who had shoved me moments before I was hit on the head.”

During that Council meeting, Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood boasted of how Urban Shield offers valuable training on de-escalation.Yet, just hours later when faced with a nonviolent, peaceful demonstration, police immediately resorted to escalation and violence, causing avoidable injury and chaos.

Advocates with the Stop Urban Shield Coalition cited the police’s violent reaction to peaceful protest as a prime example of how Urban Shield trains police officers. “It’s a sad irony that over 500 community members were present to speak out against the violence and militarization of Urban Shield back in June of 2017, and were then met with that very violence and brutality by police” explained Ellen Brotsky, a Berkeley resident with the Stop Urban Shield Coalition. “The Berkeley Police Department’s escalation and egregious response to peaceful protest should be reason alone for the City of Berkeley to withdraw completely from Urban Shield.”

Only a few months prior to this June 20th incident, BPD agreed to changes in its First Amendment and Use of Force policies and training, as a result of a prior federal civil rights lawsuit and a two year Police Review Commission (PRC) process arising from BPD’s response to Black Lives Matter protesters on December 6, 2014. In that eerily similar incident, a Chronicle photographer and a minister were hit on the heads, protesters were indiscriminately clubbed from behind, and BPD used batons to forcefully herd demonstrators from the campus area all the way across the city border into Oakland. Civil rights attorneys Jim Chanin and Rachel Lederman, who brought the prior lawsuit, contacted Chief Greenwood after the June 20 incident to try to discuss the event, but the Chief never responded.

“It’s very disappointing that the Chief has never really implemented the de-escalation approach that he and the City agreed to. In this incident, BPD fell right back on the same type of needless escalation that failed so miserably before,” said Lederman. “The use of pain without first giving any verbal command or chance to comply; the aggressive use of batons without giving a dispersal order or any attempt to resolve the situation peacefully; are all prohibited by BPD’s own policies.”

The lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting BPD from using needless force against protesters and journalists, and monetary compensation for the injuries to the three named Plaintiffs.

Monday’s City Council vote on the Police Department’s participation in the 2018 Urban Shield vendor show and tactical exercises came after more than a year of meetings and research by the Berkeley Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Urban Shield and NCRIC, initiated by the June 20th, 2017 public hearing. With more than 100 community members in the room reminding the Council of the harmful impacts of the militarized, xenophobic and racialized Urban Shield program, Mayor Arreguin was the deciding vote to keep the City’s Police in the program for 2018, despite his repeated public commitments to withdrawing. His changed vote Monday is reminiscent of his similar actions last June that initiated peaceful protest from the crowd.

“Mayor Arreguin has repeatedly broken promises. His vote to support a highly militarized and blatantly racist policing program shows a deep lack of accountability to the commitments he has made to his community and constituents, and utter disregard for the concerns and safety of Berkeley residents who have been injured or lost loved ones at the hands of the Berkeley Police Department,” said Brotsky. “His statement Monday that Berkeley has seen no negative impacts from the Urban Shield program completely undermines community voices and invisibilizes the real and fatal impacts that it has had on Berkeley residents, including the murder of Anita Gay by BPD in 2010.”

Berkeley Residents: Show Up with the Stop Urban Shield Coalition!


We need your support to withdraw the Berkeley Police Department from Urban Shield 2018!

On June 4, the Berkeley City Council Urban Shield Subcommittee passed the following motion by a vote of 3-1:

Suspend Berkeley’s participation in the vendor show and BPD’s participation in the tactical scenarios in 2018 pending timely reevaluation of the tactical-related offerings from the county in 2019.

The suspension should not extend to the table top exercises (Yellow Command), the CERT exercises (Green Command), the Community Preparedness Fair (Gray Command) or to public safety seminars at Urban Shield.

The recommendation will come before the City Council at its July 24, 2018 meeting. Mark this date on your calendar and plan to be at the meeting!

This is a victory for those of us who oppose Berkeley’s continued participation in Urban Shield’s 2018 SWAT Team war games. It follows closely on the victory of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ decision to end Urban Shield as of 2019.

Already the Berkeley Police Department is mobilizing to defeat this recommendation, playing on Trumpian fears of terrorism and crime. We need to mobilize the community to support Mayor Arreguin and Council Members Cheryl Davila and Kate Harrison in their principled vote to end Berkeley’s participation in the 2018 Urban Shield SWAT competition and vendor show.

Here is what Berkeley residents can do to make sure the Berkeley City Council passes this motion:

1. Show up at the last Urban Shield subcommittee meeting on Wed, June 13th, 3 pm, at City Hall,  2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, to speak briefly at public comment before the subcommittee

2. Email your support for the motion to the Berkeley City Council at council@cityofberkeley.info

Here is a sample email:

Dear City Council Members,

I support the Urban Shield Subcommittee motion on Berkeley’s participation in 2018 Urban Shield. After a year of research and discussion in public meetings, this motion meets the concerns of all Berkeley residents. It continues Berkeley Fire Department, emergency response staff and volunteer participation in training at Urban Shield 2018 focused on response to those mass disasters most likely to affect Berkeley: wildfires, earthquakes, hazardous material releases and the need to shelter in place. It suspends Berkeley’s participation in the 2018 SWAT scenarios and vendor show, which promote racism, xenophobia and the militarization of our police force. It allows for reevaluation of Berkeley’s participation in 2019, by which time the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will have developed a reconstituted emergency prevention and response training. I urge you to vote to support this recommendation when it comes before the Council.

3. Send an email to the Mayor, Kate Harrison and Cheryl Davila thanking them for their work on the subcommittee:





4. Mark Tuesday, July 24th on your calendar NOW  to be sure to attend the City Council meeting where the subcommittee’s motion will be voted upon.

5.  Share this information with all your friends and neighbors and encourage them to email and show up on 7/24 at the City Council Meeting.

In historic vote, Alameda County Board of Supervisors votes to end highly militarized Urban Shield SWAT program after 2018

Oakland, March 27th 2018 – In a historic move, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors just voted to end Urban Shield after 2018, the world’s largest militarized SWAT training and weapons expo. The vote was applauded by community members and organizations.

“Urban Shield would be ended it as we know it” after this year said Supervisor Carson, who put forward the motion to end the program after this year’s event takes place, which succeeded in a 4-1 vote. Supervisors Chan, Valle, and Miley supported the motion, with Supervisor Haggerty being the only no vote. Carson’s motion succeeded after an initial motion by Chan to end Urban Shield in 2018 failed in a 3-2 vote.

“After years of tireless organizing and raising widespread community opposition to police militarization and racism, we consider this a huge victory for our communities,” said Sharif Zakout of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center and member of the Stop Urban Shield. “Although we would have liked to see Urban Shield ended immediately, having an end to Urban Shield after this year reflects a significant shift in how the Bay Area can be better prepared for emergencies and disasters in ways that are not based on militarization.”

The Stop Urban Shield is committed to seeing this decision through, and to working with communities and decision makers to build up the resources and programs that strengthen community based emergency preparedness not tied to militarized policing.

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