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

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.

Urban Shield Fails – New Report Card on Urban Shield 2017


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.

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

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.


Video of Sept. 8th Rally & Community Fair

Continue the Fight against Fascism – Stop Urban Shield!

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.

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

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


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/

 District 1/Linda Miao/(510) 981-7110/ /

 District 2/Cheryl Davila/ (510) 981-7120/

 District 3/  Ben Bartlett/ (510) 981-7130/

 District 4/ Kate Harrison / (510) 981-7140 /

 District 5 / Sophie Hahn/ 510) 981-7150 /

 District 6 / Susan Wengraf / (510) 981-7160 /

 District 7/ Kris Worthington / (510) 981-7170 /

 District 8/  Lori Droste / (510) 981-7180 /

Berkeley City Council Postpones Vote to Withdraw from Urban Shield for a Third Time

Last night the Berkeley city council decided yet again to postpone a potentially historic vote to withdraw the city of Berkeley from participating in the Urban Shield war games and militarized SWAT training.

More than 200 community members and Berkeley residents came out to show their opposition to Urban Shield and to pressure the Council to listen to their constituents. Many people waited through a packed agenda for nearly 6 hours, some camped out in the downstairs lobby due to an already crowded upstairs chambers, in order to have their voices heard.

“SWAT teams break down the doors of Black and Brown community members’ homes to serve search warrants at four and five in the morning using tactics they learned at the Urban Shield training,” said Sagnicthe Salazar, a member of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition and the Xicana Moratorium Coalition. “The decision to postpone the vote has nothing to do with the lateness of the hour and everything to do with members of the council bowing to political pressure from Berkeley PD and Sheriff Ahern.” 

Despite the large and visible presence of people clearly organized around the Urban Shield agenda item, Mayor Jesse Arreguin intentionally chose to push the agenda item to the very end of the meeting. The Stop Urban Shield Coalition believes that this strategy was used deliberately to limit the number of voices present to speak out against Urban Shield; despite this at least 100 people remained to give testimony on the item which did not begin until around 11:30pm.

“Berkeley residents came out to this meeting in force to let the Council know that we understand the harmful and far reaching effects that militarized trainings for cops have on communities” said Ellen Brotsky, a Berkeley resident and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, “Not only is Urban Shield antithetical to Berkeley values, it also undermines the ability of cities like Berkeley to seek out community-based alternatives to Urban Shield.”

Then, in a clear undermining of the democratic process, the Council decided at 12:30 am that they would adjourn and that they would not cast a vote concerning Urban Shield at this meeting.  While the crowd erupted in boos of anger and disappointment we remained disciplined and organized and collectively decided to exercise our power to end the meeting on our own terms. We walked out before the conclusion of the meeting with chants of “Stop Urban Shield” echoing in the hallways. This move showed the City Council that the community will not tolerate this kind of manipulation. The council moved to set another meeting at a date and time to be determined where they assured those present that a vote would be held. The Stop Urban Shield Coalition will ensure that the meeting is held in a space that can accommodate the powerful showing of our community, and turn out in force again, larger and stronger to raise our demands.

The decision to further postpone this vote, rather than taking the decisive action that Berkley needs, undermines the trust that the people of Berkeley have placed in their elected officials and calls into question the legitimacy of the Council as a decision-making body. Furthermore, the call to postpone the vote is a slap in the face to community members, working people, mothers and fathers, who gave hours of their time waiting for the item to be called as well as organizers who for the third time in as many months, met with council members, outreached to community leaders, and mobilized people to the meeting.

The Stop Urban Shield Coalition is urging people to email and call the Council members and let them know how you feel about this further postponement and urge them to take swift action to end Urban Shield:


Mayor Jesse Arreguin/ (510) 981-7100/

District 1/Linda Miao/(510) 981-7110/ /

District 2/Cheryl Davila/ (510) 981-7120/

District 3/ Ben Bartlett/ (510) 981-7130/

District 4/ Kate Harrison / (510) 981-7140 /

District 5 / Sophie Hahn/ 510) 981-7150 /

District 6 / Susan Wengraf / (510) 981-7160 /

District 7/ Kris Worthington / (510) 981-7170 /
District 8/  Lori Droste / (510) 981-7180 /

Please stay tuned for more information on the promised vote and how to mobilize and/or support.

Berkeley City Council Considers Ending Involvement in Urban Shield

Town Hall on Militarization and Law Enforcement Agreements: Berkeley City Council Considers Ending Involvement in Urban Shield

Join the Stop Urban Shield Coalition for a town hall hosted by members of the Berkeley City Council as they prepare to discuss withdrawing from federal funding for militarized law enforcement training through Urban Areas Security Initiative and the annual Urban Shield training and weapons expo. The Stop Urban Shield Coalition has been fighting Urban shield on every front. We’ve been at Berkeley City Council Meetings to convince representatives that Urban Shield hurts Berkeley residents, particularly in Black and Brown communities. 

Join us for a community town hall hosted by Council Members Cheryl Davila and Kate Harrison. 

Date: Monday, April 17th, from 6-8pm

Location: The Way Church, 1305 University Ave, Berkeley  Berkeley City 

All Out to Berkeley City Council Meeting to Say No to Urban Shield!

In an unprecedented move, the Berkeley City Council is considering fully withdrawing their support for local agency participation in the Urban Areas Security Initiative and Urban Shield. This meeting is critical for the fight against Urban Shield. A decision in favor of pulling out of Urban Shield by the Berkeley City Council paves the way for other cities in the Bay Area to do the same.

Date: Tuesday, April 25th at 7:00pm

Location:  Berkeley City Council  Berkeley City Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way between Allston and Addison (near downtown Berkeley BART)

Look for more information in the coming days about calling Berkeley City Council members to urge them to support ending Urban Shield!


California Nurses Association Urges Alameda County Board of Supervisors to End Urban Shield

The California Nurses Association (CNA)one of the largest labor organizations in the state, has joined the ranks of dozens of other organizations and hundreds of community members and health care professionals in taking stance against the militarization of police by opposing Urban Shield. In a recent letter to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors CNA points to the critical nature of emergency preparedness and how the militarization of such a response actually undermines community safety.

“We strongly support the development, support, and expansion of true Emergency Preparedness programming in Alameda County. We are distressed to learn that our Board of Supervisors plans on allocating five of the $6 Million dollars granted by UASI Urban Shield, while not spending a single dollar on many of the emergency preparedness goals, such as Goal 1: Planning and Risk Management, Goal 5: Medical and Public Health, Goal 6: Emergency Planning and Community Preparedness, or Goal 7: Recovery.

We do not support programs that train first responders and law enforcement officials to see the people who live in our communities as their greatest threat. We do not support increasing the use of militarized weaponry and tactics in everyday law enforcement. These training exercises perpetuate racist and xenophobic stereotypes and increase trauma in communities already suffering under the massive number of police killings, militarized SWAT raids and sweeps, and surveillance technologies and are further eroding already fragile community / police relationships. This decreases public safety, destabilizes communities, and puts more cops at risk.”

You can read the full text of the letter here. 

Community to Mobilize on 2/28 to the SF Board of Supervisors. No War on our Communities!

On Tuesday, February 28th at 2pm the Stop Urban Shield Coalition will pack the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting as the City votes whether or not to apply for the 2017 Urban Area Securities Initiative funds from the Department of Homeland security, the funding that is used to finance Urban Shield.  While the Supervisors have shown that they are concerned about the militarized police training and the harm and violence that Urban Shield brings into our communities and have introduced several amendments to the resolution, we still need to show them that ending Urban Shield altogether is strongest path forward. 

At the same meeting, community members will also be urging the Board of Supervisors to divest from banks that are financing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Indigenous Water Defenders and their allies have been defending the land of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota for months and have repeatedly faced militarized police forces trying to repress their efforts. They have drafted an open letter to the Board of Supervisors and are asking for supporters to sign on. They have also asked attendees to wear blue as a show of support. Additionally the Supervisors will be voting on a resolution to prevent the use of City infrastructure to enforce a registry based on identity, national origin, religion or ethnicity. Such a resolution would prevent the City from complying with the Muslim registry that Trump has repeatedly promised to implement.

The Stop Urban Shield Coalition recognizes that these issues are part and parcel of the same resistance. The violence of policing, racial profiling and militarization affects communities of color, immigrant and indigenous communities from Oakland to San Francisco to the Standing Rock reservation. Given the very real threats we face under the Trump administration we need to stronger than ever in the defense of our people and especially  standing together in struggle across our communities.

Turn out to 1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Pl at 2pm to say No War on Communities of Color, Immigrant, Indigenous and Muslim Communities!


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