Author: Critical Resistance (Page 1 of 3)

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

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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.”

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

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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:

mayor@CityofBerkeley.info

cdavila@CityofBerkeley.info

kharrison@CityofBerkeley.info

 

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.

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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!

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Press Release: Berkeley Police Review Commission votes against Urban Shield, urging City Council to cease participation in the program

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Last night, the Berkeley Police Review Commission voted 4 to 2 to cease the city’s participation in the highly militarized Urban Shield war games and weapons expo. The decision will be passed as a recommendation for the city council to make a decision on.

George Lippman, chair of the commission, and Andrea Pritchett were among the commission who attended to observe this year’s Urban Shield scenarios and weapons expo, noting the highly militarized nature of the program. Their observations challenged the idea that the program was necessary

“I didn’t see any training happening at Urban Shield; I saw SWAT teams demonstrate their training. It’s a competition,” stated Pritchett. Speaking to a widely condemned violent police crackdown of a 2014 Black Lives Matter protest in Berkeley, Pritchett continued, “It’s not that the police were unprepared, it’s that they were ill-prepared. It’s because of programs like Urban Shield that the police responded to the Black Lives Matter protests in a war-like fashion.”

The Stop Urban Shield Coalition applauds the commission’s decision. “We welcome the commission’s motion to to halt the city’s participation in this extremely dangerous and racist program, as it’s long past due that Berkeley withdraw,” said Lily Fahsi-Haskell of Critical Resistance, an organization with the coalition. “It is now the responsibility of the Mayor and city council members to heed this call by avoiding the same mistake they made in June, and to definitively say that Berkeley will not support militarization. It’s time to pull out of Urban Shield.”

The date for when the Berkeley city council will discuss this recommendation has yet to be decided.

 

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Press Release: Stop Urban Shield advocates brutalized by police at Berkeley council meeting file claim against city

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Photos by Brooke Anderson

Berkeley – Seven people who were brutalized by the Berkeley Police while demonstrating against Berkeley’s participation in the highly militarized Urban Shield policing program filed a claim against the City of Berkeley today.

On June 20th, 2017, the seven turned out to a special Berkeley City Council meeting at Longfellow Middle School to speak against Berkeley’s continued participation in Urban Shield, an annual SWAT training and weapons expo. They were among hundreds of people who gave hours of public comment in opposition to Urban Shield, but the Council proceeded to rush a vote in favor of continuing to participate.

When activists peacefully unfurled a banner reading “Stop Urban Shield, End the Militarization of our Communities,” they were immediately attacked by Berkeley Police officers. The officers grabbed two people, applied excruciating pain holds and arrested them without giving them any chance to leave. Police then forcibly pushed the crowd out of the auditorium and into the street. When people continued to express concern for the two who had been arrested and chant in opposition to the violence of Urban Shield, the police advanced on the crowd aggressively, wielding their batons. Police clubbed Lew Williams, a 73-year-old retired elementary school teacher on the head, causing him to bleed, and struck minister Sharon Fennema, a Berkeley resident and professor at Pacific School of Religion, on the shoulder. A photojournalist was hit multiple times on her arm, which was already injured and in a brace, and her camera was forcefully shoved into her face, bruising her. Police clubbed other protesters repeatedly, even as the activists showed no threat.

“I felt this blow on top of my head and then blood came streaming out,” said longtime Berkeley resident Lew Williams, the retired teacher. “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.”

Although several Berkeley officers were in close proximity to Mr. Williams, not one officer offered first aid or called an ambulance. Other demonstrators assisted Mr. Williams, who suffered a concussion as well as a laceration on the top of his head. Nor did the police provide any medical attention to the two people who had gratuitously been subjected to pain holds. Dylan Cooke sustained lasting wrist and shoulder injuries as a result of this mistreatment.

During the Council meeting, the Berkeley police chief 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.

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, 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 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 and are representing the claimants here, contacted Chief Greenwood after the June 20 incident to try to discuss the event, but the Chief never responded.

“We are alarmed to see BPD fall back on the same type of needless escalation that failed so miserably before, after promising to change its approach to one emphasizing de-escalation,” said Lederman. “The use of pain without first giving any verbal command or chance to comply; the indiscriminate use of batons without giving a dispersal order or any attempt to resolve the situation peacefully; are all prohibited by BPD’s own policies.”

“There appears to be no justification for a head strike, which is potentially deadly and thus prohibited unless the officer reasonably believes that doing so is necessary to protect the officer or others from death or serious bodily injury,” said Chanin. “What’s almost worse is that neither the officer who did this, nor any of other officers who were nearby, reported the illegal use of force as they were required to.”

The government claim filed today is a prerequisite required before the activists can sue the City of Berkeley in court.

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Urban Shield Fails – New Report Card on Urban Shield 2017

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The Stop Urban Coalition has released a new report card assessing how Urban Shield 2017 fared in five main concern areas based on observations from people who attended the event. Additionally, the report looks at how well the weapons expo and SWAT training abided by 12 principles and guidelines that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors laid out in January 2017. The report card finds that Urban Shield dramatically fails in addressing community concerns. See the report card here.

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Urban Shield Task Force Member Calls Stop Urban Shield a Group of Terrorists

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In an email to one of the Stop Urban Shield representatives on the Alameda County Urban Shield Task Force, Mike Grant of Guns Unlimited referred to the Stop Urban Shield Coalition as a “group of terrorists.” Grant was Supervisor Haggerty’s appointee on the Task Force. He disparagingly dismissed concerns of Islamophobia and racism, and went on to accuse the Arab Resource and Organizing Center – a member of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition – of “getting funding from some bad people” and potentially “getting funds from overseas.” Grant’s Guns Unlimited is an endorser of Urban Shield.

 

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Video of Sept. 8th Rally & Community Fair

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Continue the Fight against Fascism – Stop Urban Shield!

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This weekend we won a victory against white supremacy, powerfully united in the thousands across communities, to kick fascists off the streets of San Francisco and Berkeley. Despite police collaboration with the alt-right and the targeting of counter protesters, we stayed together and kept each other safe against both the police and the white supremacists.  In the days following, with Berkeley Mayor Arreguin calling to label antifa a gang and the media reframing our mass mobilizations as violent, we will stay united and continue to fight back against fascism and oppression.

We know that these emboldened acts of white supremacists are symptomatic and fundamentally connected to state violence and police militarization. We must bring the same unity and mass power that we did in the streets this last weekend to the ongoing local struggles against policing, militarization and violence.

Fascism and White Supremacy in Our Cities

In the aftermath of last weekend, we look ahead to the weekend of September 8th when Alameda County Sheriff Ahern will once again host the militarized and xenophobic Urban Shield weapons expo and SWAT team training. This is the same Sheriff who endorsed Jeff Sessions, is working on the Santa Rita jail expansion, collaborating with ICE, and most recently whose office retweeted white supremacist Richard Spencer. Urban Shield is exactly the kind of training that prepares Berkeley Police to collaborate with the alt-right, to criminalize counter protesters, to racially profile Berkeley residents, and to use military grade weapons and equipment in everyday policing.

Read More

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UPDATED: Mark Your Calendars, Berkeley Vote June 20th!

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Special Berkeley Hearing on Urban Shield Scheduled!

June 20th, 6pm
Longfellow Middle School (1500 Derby St, Berkeley)
 
The Berkeley City Council will be voting on the city’s participation in Urban Shield.

On Tuesday May 16 more than 200 people turned out to the Berkeley City Council

in anticipation of the Council’s vote on whether or not to continue Berkeley’s participation in Urban Shield. After waiting six hours for the agenda item to be heard and after giving powerful testimony, we were told that the Council once again decided to postpone the vote. The coalition and supporters staged a walkout to show the Council that we won’t stand for this kind of manipulation.

 We have gotten word that the Council will now be hearing additional testimony in a special session and will actually be voting sometime in mid-June at a date, time and location to be determined. We are making sure that this special session will be held in a location that will be able to accommodate the huge number of community members who will be mobilizing

PLEASE STAY TUNED. WE STILL NEED YOUR SUPPORT! 

We want to redouble our efforts at the upcoming meeting in showing the Berkeley City Council that they need to stand on the side of the people and not on the side of militarization and oppression.

In the meantime, please call and email the mayor and Council people to urge them to vote No To Urban Shield!

 Mayor Jesse Arreguin/ (510) 981-7100/ mayor@cityofberkeley.info

 District 1/Linda Miao/(510) 981-7110/  lmaio@cityofberkeley.info /

 District 2/Cheryl Davila/ (510) 981-7120/ cdavila@cityofberkeley.info

 District 3/  Ben Bartlett/ (510) 981-7130/  bbartlett@CityofBerkeley.info

 District 4/ Kate Harrison / (510) 981-7140 /  kharrison@CityofBerkeley.info

 District 5 / Sophie Hahn/ 510) 981-7150 / shahn@CityofBerkeley.info

 District 6 / Susan Wengraf / (510) 981-7160 / swengraf@CityofBerkeley.info

 District 7/ Kris Worthington / (510) 981-7170 / kworthington@CityofBerkeley.info

 District 8/  Lori Droste / (510) 981-7180 / ldroste@CityofBerkeley.info

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