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.
In this political moment, under a Trump presidency that just reinstated the 1033 program that authorizes sending surplus military equipment to local police departments, it is more important than ever to end Urban Shield. And as we watch a natural disaster unfolding in Houston, with Black, Brown, and poor communities again suffering the brunt of the storm, it is our political duty to prepare our communities for all forms of emergencies. In Houston, as in many places struck by disasters, we see that it is community members themselves – and not the police – that are the most effective emergency responders. As we say no to Urban Shield, we must invest in community training and preparedness, the kind that mobilized and trained networks of medics, security and legal support for the anti-fascist rallies this past weekend and that will effectively prepare our communities for natural disasters and other crises in the future.
Demonstrating Our Power on September 8th
On September 8th, the 2017 Urban Shield kicks off with a weapons expo in Pleasanton that will showcase military grade weapons, vehicles, and surveillance equipment. Join the Stop Urban Shield Coalition in downtown Oakland to resist the war on our communities and demand that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors puts an end to Urban Shield! As we say NO to policing, militarization and state violence, we will uplift and build community preparedness and safety. Rally followed by a community fair with Earthquake Kits, People’s Fire Safety, Medics, Self Defense and How to Be Cop-Free. All ages welcome, wheelchair accessible, and ASL interpretation provided.
In preparation, please DONATE to our Stop Urban Shield Survival Supplies Drive Wish List and help us reach our distribution goals! You can also bring sealed bottled water, new batteries and working flashlights to donate the day of.
PROTEST & COMMUNITY FAIR
Friday, September 8th, at 4PM
RALLY // 4-5pm, Alameda County Board of Supervisor’s Office, 1221 Oak St., Oakland CA
COMMUNITY FAIR // 5-7pm, South Lake Amphitheater Lake Merritt
What is Urban Shield?
Urban Shield is a regional, national and international SWAT team training and weapons expo that was created by the Alameda County Sheriff Ahern in 2007 and has been held in the Bay Area every year since then. It draws police, emergency and fire departments from around the country and world, including the apartheid state of Israel and other teams with documented human rights violations. Alameda County puts on Urban Shield with funding from tax revenue, the Department of Homeland Security through a program called the Urban Areas Security Initiative, weapons manufacturers and corporate sponsors. Despite being branded as a training for public safety and emergency preparedness, the connection to DHS requires a nexus to terrorism. And this is just one of many disastrous law enforcement programs that claim to fight terrorism, while expanding the power of policing. With trainings that enforces militarized and repressive tactics and racialize suspects as people of color and victims as white; and with an expo that showcases warfare equipment and surveillance technology and in past years has sold explicitly racist tee-shirts.
The struggle against Urban Shield
The Stop Urban Shield Coalition is a broad coalition of grassroots and social justice organizations organizing and mobilizing against Urban Shield. Over the last few years, the Coalition has built a wide and ever expanding base of community support and knowledge against Urban Shield. It has also developed and continued a strong legislative campaign targeting the Alameda County Board of Supervisors who have the power to end Urban Shield and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who as the fiscal sponsor to Urban Shield can defund the program. In the last year, the Coalition has also worked with cities to pull city personnel out of Urban Shield, starting with Berkeley this spring and moving towards San Francisco this October.
- 2014: Strong community organizing and resistance forced the City of Oakland to stop hosting Urban Shield. The Sheriff has since moved the weapons expo to the Pleasanton Fairgrounds.
- 2015: Stop Urban Shield Coalition grows to include over 2 dozen endorsing organization.
- September 2016: We successfully mobilized and actively disrupted the Urban Shield weapons expo in Pleasanton. With more than 500 people, we showed a strong and powerful community resistance.
- October 2016: San Francisco Supervisors call on Alameda Board of Supervisors to end Urban Shield funding.
- January 2017:In response to community mobilization at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, the Supervisors initiate a County Task Force on Urban Shield to evaluate the effectiveness of Urban Shield and impact on the community.
- March 2017: San Francisco Board of Supervisors condemn Urban Shield, passing a resolution that urges Alameda County to suspend the training. Furthermore, Supervisor Yee states his intention to introduce an ordinance to pull SF personnel and agencies from participating in Urban Shield.
- June 2017: After months of mobilizing to Berkeley City Council meetings, Berkeley holds a special session on Urban Shield. We brought a packed house and five hours of diverse and powerful community voices speaking against Urban Shield. Despite this, the Mayor rushed and confused an undemocratic vote to stay in Urban Shield. And when the community took nonviolent action to protest the vote, the police responded with aggressive use of force.
- August 2017: Alameda County Board of Supervisors reject an Urban Shield vendor over their racist products. The Alameda County Task Force meets to decide on recommendations to the Board of Supervisors and the fate of Urban Shield. With strong pressure from Coalition members and the community and heated debate with police and sheriff department representatives, the Task Force arranged for an additional final meeting September 22nd. Ben Bartlett, Berkeley City Council member who is running for state office, changes his stance on Urban Shield to strongly oppose it.
With our growing community of resistance, we’re compelling policy makers and Sheriff Ahern to respond to our organizing. This year’s Urban Shield will host its own “community fair” and follow twelve nominal guidelines to “improve” the exercises. Both Alameda County and Berkeley City have initiated task forces to evaluate Urban Shield, its effectiveness and its impact on the community. Berkeley’s mayor has stated he wants to withdraw from Urban Shield in six months. All of these are clear signs that our organizing is winning, but we know that no reforms are possible and any attempts to “improve” Urban Shield are superficial at best. Now, more than ever, we need to continue and increase the pressure on key policy makers to defund and end Urban Shield!
We know that the only solution is to completely get rid of Urban Shield and invest in community safety and preparedness. Existing community based organizations and projects in Alameda County are currently working hard to prepare and train for emergencies. The continuation of Urban Shield diverts and prevents investments in these types of effective preparedness. Divestment from Urban Shield and similar training programs and in diverting finances and resources to these efforts would enable them to scale up their scope and effectiveness.