Oakland groups outraged at Urban Shield "war games" and gun show
On the anniversary of the disastrous police response to Occupy Oakland, Urban Shield — a trade show and training exercise for SWAT teams and police agencies from across California, as well as from Israel, Guam, Brazil, and Bahrain — will bring together more than 150 local, state, federal, international, and private sector partners and military contractors. These include corporations that market tear gas, public surveillance systems and military-grade weaponry to local police and sheriff departments in the name of “fighting terrorism.”
Urban Shield militarizes our police with combat style weapons and a military mentality that views community members as potential adversaries and threats to public security. This has translated into increased harm to African-American, Latino, Arab-American and Muslim communities, as well as people exercising their right to public protest.
What an insult to the victims of police brutality!
Shockingly, when confronted with protests by community members, city and county officials were unaware that this event was taking place in their own community.
Urban Shield’ competitive exercises will be held in conjunction with an October 25th trade show at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland that will market military-style weapons, equipment, and training to local public safety agencies. The East Bay Express noted that “the whole show it’s as much theater as it is practical exercise is sponsored by major weapons manufacturing companies like ATK, which makes everything from small caliber bullets to depleted uranium ammunition.”
Homeland Security is funding this “War on Terror” circus to the tune of $7.5 million through the County Sheriff’s office, with the requirement that exercises focus on “anti-terrorism” scenarios, including how to surveil the Muslim community and how to confront Occupy protestors or others exercising their right of dissent.
Is this what we want in our community?
Facing Urban Shield Action Network (FUSAN) is composed of over 30 diverse Bay Area groups that believe hosting Urban Shield is the wrong direction for public policy and is a gross misuse of public resources so desperately needed to fund social services and meet other important community needs.
We demand accountability and transparency in the use of public monies for activities that, in the name of fighting terrorism, actually make us less secure and more vulnerable to racial profiling, false arrest, police harassment, criminalization of our youth, and violations of our constitutional rights. Urban Shield “exercises” further militarize police responses to all kinds of emergencies, like people in crisis with mental health issues, with devastating results.
FUSAN, including AllenTemple Baptist Church, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Cop Watch, the Oscar Grant Foundation, Allan Bluford family, Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice, and Occupy Oakland, believes that funding Urban Shield means fewer resources and attention given to restorative justice models and non-violent alternatives to militarized policing.
Rather than greater security, Urban Shield will deliver more victimization, pain and suffering for communities of color. Reverend Daniel Buford of Allen Temple Baptist Church states: “We do not believe that Urban Shield advances community safety or reduces the number of guns on our streets.“
None of the Urban Shield methods have served as an effective deterrent to crime in Oakland or anywhere else. Public funds should be used to create healthy neighborhoods and community-building alternatives to heavy policing. This includes access to healthy food, health care, living wage jobs, affordable housing, public transportation, properly funded public schools and violence prevention and mental health programs directed toward stopping domestic violence, sexual abuse and dealing with addiction. These are the real “shields” that will reduce the level of violence, create greater social responsibility and community accountability, and as a consequence, will make us all safer and more secure.
In a city that has a “no gun show” policy, Urban Shield sends the wrong message.
This article was collectively written by the Facing Urban Shield Action Network. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is a Freeman Fellow at the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and cofounder of the Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence, both of which are members of FUSAN. Together with Noura Khouri, Gottlieb has helped mobilize broader participation in FUSAN, especially within the faith community.