Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Communities against militarization

    A bold protest banner hangs across the Lake Merritt amphitheater, where workshops teach community self-reliance. (Tower/Sarah Carpenter)

    Oakland organizations band together to teach self-reliance as an alternative to police dependence

    By Dejon Gill

    Community members joined the Stop Urban Shield Coalition at a Sept. 8 rally, during which they listened to speakers and were led in a prayer ceremony by an Aztec group in Downtown Oakland.

    The crowd demonstrated their opposition to Urban Shield’s training event, which was hosted by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office from Sept. 7 to 11. The Stop Urban Shield Coalition organizers avoided calling the event a protest, instead characterizing it as a “direct action.”

    According to their website, Urban Shield is a “comprehensive, full-scale regional exercise” that focuses on training first responders. However, opponents of Urban Shield worry that the group perpetuates a para-military police force, and doesn’t focus on EMTs and firefighters.

    A Third World Solidarity Activist protests Urban Shield’s influence on the City of Oakland’s Police Department. (Tower/Toni Cervantes)

    “Within the last few years, protests against police violence have been met with a highly militarized response — tear gas, armored cars in the streets, and sound cannons,” Stop Urban Shield Coalition member Nathaniel Moore said. “These are the things that Urban Shield are training police for, not terrorism response.”

    Critics of Urban Shield allege that its training programs are racially biased. Mary Noble, editor of “Showing Up for Racial Justice, Bay Area,” published an article on Medium in which she gives her account of having “bluffed” her way into the 2016 Urban Shield training in Pleasanton.

    According to Noble, the training weekend included a weapons trade show in Pleasanton, and a 48-hour SWAT training exercise set across various Bay Area venues.

    Describing the training exercises, which included police roleplaying a Boko Haram-style kidnapping, Noble wrote of the mannequins used to represent the terrorists: “I was upset, but not surprised, to see that the terrorist mannequins were all brown people,” while all of the victims in the training exercises were white.”

    The march in opposition to Urban Shield rounds Fallon Street toward Lake Merritt where local organizations have set up community workshops, including how to perform CPR, how to put out a fire with a fire extinguisher, how to de-escalate situations and avoid violence, etc.

    Tash Nguyen, a member of the Alameda County Urban Shield Task Force, which was charged by the Board of Supervisors to look into reforming Urban Shield concluded that “Urban Shield is not reformable because it is a SWAT training, and SWAT was founded on racism. SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics Team, so by definition you can’t demilitarize a SWAT team.”

    Nguyen believes that the funds for Urban Shield, which come from a grant through Homeland Security, should be refused.

    “We should be looking for funds elsewhere to focus on figuring out how to provide permanent affordable housing,” she said.

    “We need to supply our communities with emergency preparedness kits, building education around emergency preparedness, even teaching our community members how to do de-escalation if there is a terrorist incident, which is incredibly rare.”


    Organizer Katie Loncke explains the workshops available at the event and where to find them. (Tower/Sarah Carpenter)

    Dejon Gill is a Tower Staff Writer. Email him at dejonjgill(at)gmail.com.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Citizen
    $0
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Comments (0)

    All Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *