Category: updates (Page 2 of 5)
Friday September 8, 2017
See below for images of today’s weapons exposition.
As part of Alameda County Sheriff Ahern’s annual and highly controversial Urban Shield program, hundreds attended a weapons exposition and vendor show in Pleasanton this morning. Observers reported vendor tables selling new facial recognition software that will be piloted in Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail this year, “mile high” sniper rifles that will be featured in this weekend’s training activities, heavy duty batons used for crowd control, surveillance drones, weaponized robots, and close range rifles. Law enforcement agents – including representatives of San Francisco Police Department, Oakland Police Department, Berkeley Police Department, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Department of Homeland Security, and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department – shopped for military style weaponry, surveillance technology, robotics, and armored vehicles. Participants were also given “Blue Lives Matter” pins, a slogan that many have condemned as dismissive to the issue of police violence raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The vendor show and SWAT competition brings together law enforcement from across the country and the world to train in war games simulations and scenarios that have a “nexus to terrorism.” Urban Shield proponents’ claim that the event’s emphasis is on emergency preparedness rang hollow as the expo overwhelmingly featured vendors of weapons and surveillance technology. Though Alameda County Board of Supervisors prohibited weapons sales at this year’s vendor show, interested parties were able to place bids with vendors and obtain weaponry within as little time as two weeks. Over 15 of today’s vendors donated weaponry and equipment for police participating in this weekend’s SWAT competition to test out the weapons.
Due to mounting community pressure to cancel Urban Shield, members of the Alameda County Task Force on Urban Shield as well as elected officials have been allowed to attend the weapons expo and SWAT competition this weekend. Observers at the weapons exposition today included Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Councilmembers Cheryl Davila and Lori Droste, as well as Stop Urban Shield coalition representatives from the American Friends Service Committee and Ella Baker Center.
“Seeing the weapons exposition first hand was horrific. The testimonies from SWAT victims and community members that we have been highlighting for years came to life as we watched Bay Area police departments window shop for new military-style weapons,” reported Tash Nguyen of the Stop Urban Shield coalition. “This is exactly why we have been demanding an end to Urban Shield,” she continued. Nguyen serves on the Alameda County Task Force where the Stop Urban Shield coalition has made proposals that would address the militarized nature of Urban Shield and the impact on communities of color in the Bay Area.
Hundreds of Bay Area residents are preparing to gather outside the Alameda County Administration Building today at 4pm to demand that the Board of Supervisors immediately end Urban Shield. Stop Urban Shield organizers are also planning to hold a resource fair at Lake Merritt after the rally, aimed at providing workshops, aid kits, and information on how communities themselves can respond to emergency situations without militarized law enforcement.
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.
Join the Stop Urban Shield Coalition to say NO to policing, militarization and state violence!
WHEN// 4PM on September 8th 2017
WHERE// Alameda County Board of Supervisor’s Office, 1221 Oak St., Oakland CA
With the current manifestations of violence under the Trump administration, it is more important than ever to urge the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to end this racist and Islamaphobic event and invest in emergency preparedness that benefits the health and wellbeing of our communities. While Urban Shield is just one front in the fight against the state’s attempt to militarize every aspect of our lives – from its war-making here and abroad, to the increasing presence of police in our schools, to the systemic murder of Black and Brown people at the hands of police – stopping Urban Shield would be a major victory against this growing trend of militarization in cities everywhere, from Oakland to Ferguson to Baltimore.
Stop Urban Shield is a broad coalition of grassroots community and social justice organizations united in the fight to end Urban Shield and hold accountable our cities and counties for their corroboration in increased racialized repression and violence.
Join us in resisting violence against our communities and in fighting for genuine visions of justice, safety, and self-determination.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Department retweets white supremacist “Unite the Right” press conference, community members urge action
“If county officials are appalled at the Sheriff’s Department retweet of white supremacy, they need to take action and put an end to its equally racist and appalling practices and programs, such as Urban Shield, immigrant detention and collaboration with ICE, and jail expansion.”
Oakland – Yesterday at around 10:40pm, the official twitter account of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department retweeted a video of a press conference organized by Richard Spencer, the icon of the white supremacist “alt-right” movement. The tweet dubbed the press conference with a “Unite the Right” hashtag – the same slogan that white supremacist groups used to mobilize people to Charlottesville, VA this past weekend, which resulted in the tragic murder of an anti-racist demonstrator by a white supremacist.
Community organizations that have long organized against the Sheriff’s department harmful policies and practices argue that the endorsement of white supremacy on twitter is representative of the department’s ongoing attacks against immigrants and people of color. Community members fighting police militarization with the Stop Urban Shield Coalition, anti-imprisonment organizers with Decarcerate Alameda, and immigrant rights advocates with Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights (ACUDIR) all condemn not just the message of the retweet, but the ongoing racism and violence of Sheriff’s Department against impacted communities.
“As appalling as it is that a public entity in the Bay Area would retweet a well-known white supremacist, we are not surprised. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, under the reign of Sheriff Gregory Ahern, has consistently pursued policies that align themselves with extreme hate, racism, and xenophobia,” said Woods Ervin of Critical Resistance and the Stop Urban Shield Coalition. “If county officials are appalled at the Sheriff’s Department retweet of white supremacy, they need to take action and put an end to its equally racist and appalling practices and programs, such as Urban Shield, immigrant detention and collaboration with ICE, and jail expansion.
The Sheriff’s Department annually hosts Urban Shield, the largest militarized SWAT training and weapons expo in the world. Federally funded by the Department of Homeland Security, Urban Shield has been under sharp criticism due to its promotion of police militarization, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, and highly repressive practices and techonologies. Bay Area communities have also been outraged at the Sheriff’s Department’s plans to expand the county jail system, as well as its continued collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where it detains immigrants, ultimately leading to deportation.
“The community is outraged by Sheriff Ahern, who has continuously sided with hate and implements it through his policies and practices,” said Sandy from California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, an organization with ACUDIR. “Sheriff Ahern has admitted to racially profiling and criminalizing communities of color.”
“White supremacy is not only alive and well on the Sheriffs Department’s twitter page, but also in their racially unjust policies and daily practices. The Sheriff’s white supremacist actions ring loud and clear in their plan to spend $70 million on a new mental health unit at Santa Rita Jail, an expansion project that will continue to target people of color, destroy lives, and add to the department’s long history of racism,” said Tash Nguyen of Decarcerate Alameda. “We refuse to accept the everyday, state-sanctioned racist violence of incarceration as legitimate.”
This is not the first time the County Sheriff has been under scrutiny for his support of the extreme right. In December of last year, Sheriff Ahern also co-signed a letter of support for Jeff Sessions, the current U.S. Attorney General who has been widely condemned because of his xenophobia, racism, and denial of climate change.
“The Sheriff can claim that the retweet was a mistake, yet he continues to steamroll our communities with violent and racist practices. We demand County officials to take action not only against his words or tweets, but on his actions that are having real, everyday impacts on communities of color throughout the Bay Area,” said Ervin.
The Stop Urban Shield coalition is proud of the unity and resilience displayed by all those in attendance at last night’s hearing in Berkeley. We need to maintain this resolve in order to Stop Urban Shield in Berkeley and end the program entirely. We cannot tolerate this police abuse and city evasion of democratic process – Take Action Immediately!
Over 500 of us – advocates and Berkeley residents fighting to end police militarization – attended last night’s hearing. We were united in our call to permanently withdraw Berkeley from Urban Shield participation and to end participation in NCRIC. After listening to hours of testimony, with only one speaker out of hundreds speaking in support of the violent police program, Mayor Arreguin and other council members approved participation in NCRIC and attempted to move forward with a vote to remain in Urban Shield.
With the mayor attempting to rush and confuse the vote, community members broke out in chants and unfurled a banner to nonviolently display their protest. This prompted the police to respond with aggressive force with two people arrested (they have since been released) and others injured. This is exactly the type of repression we are standing against when demand an end to Urban Shield. It is the brutality faced daily by Black, Brown, and poor communities in the Bay Area.
The Clerk’s Office and City Council are deciding today on whether the vote will stand. Make a call right now!
I’m contacting you to demand that yesterday’s attempted vote on Urban Shield is not sustained by the Council or Clerk. The proposal was not transparent to the public or council, the motion and process were convoluted, and the vote was not publicly heard. In light of this evasion of democracy and yesterday’s show of police brutality following the hearing, this vote needs to be rescinded and heard again.
First, call the below numbers before 5pm today!
City Clerk: (510) 981-6900
Mayor Arreguin: (510) 981-7100
If you are a Berkeley resident, worker, or student please include your address in the email.
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!
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.
District 8/ Lori Droste / (510) 981-7180 / ldroste@CityofBerkeley.info
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:
CONTACT INFO FOR BERKELEY CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
Please stay tuned for more information on the promised vote and how to mobilize and/or support.