It's four days of glorifying militarized police and their deadly toys. It's a convention which markets death via its trade show and whose 2013 publicity has a picture of commandos on a BART train pointing assault weapons while a passenger rides nonplussed. It's 2014 publicity pictures are equally horrifying.
From September 4th, 2014, until Setpember 7th, 2014, Urban Shield reappears in Oakland, CA. Four days of weapons on display, sessions on how to deal with terrorists (but none on how to de-escalate a crowd situation or talk someone down who is mentally ill). It's a joint project of the Feds, who provide local police forces with no longer needed military weapons and technology, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, which has hosted the convention since 2007, and We the People, who continue to allow such displays of testosterone and madness to happen.
We the People are starting to push back. What seemed likely, pre-Ferguson, to be an anemic protest even compared to last year's (and see here), has now become a focus for Oakland's activists. The Block the Boat action two weeks ago, which turned out thousands, along with recent police murders across the country, have galvanized folks in Oakland hoping the world will take notice: "No more!"
No more police violence, no more militarization, no more death because someome is young and black (Michael Brown, Ramarley Graham, Alan Blueford, Oscar Grant ... ), or deaf, or mentally ill, or wearing headphones.
What will be the Oakland Police response? We don't know, but last year's response can provide us with clues. Here is a snippet from information about OPD and Urban Shield 2013 obtained from a Public Records request.
The protests are already beginning. A group blocked the entrance to the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Oakland (where the convention will be held) a couple of days ago.
Nine of us sat in prayer and meditation on cold concrete blocking the doors to the Oakland Marriott while across the driveway, where guests stepped out of cabs or limousines, others meditated, sitting or standing, holding signs decrying police militarization and violence. People also meditated facing the street. Others handed out fliers with information.A symbolic petition demands that the Marriott not host Urban Shield (symbolic because the Marriott is locked into staging contract for this year, but stranger things have happened).
Monks chanted and drummed. Your names rose within me as I sat: a litany, a mantra. Something in me settled more deeply. A sense of great love washed through.
I felt the doors push against my back as people tried to exit the hotel. Every time this happened, I followed the drums. I sank deeper. I chanted your names in my heart and mind.
Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Alan Blueford, Oscar Grant, Anita Gay, Gary King, Kimani Gray, Sean Bell, Andy Lopez, Kayla Moore, Eric Garner, Kelly Thomas.
Local videographers have showcased the event in this moving video:
and while not specifically named, nothing says "Urban Shield" like this excellent spoof:
"Got a Strawberry Festival? You Need a Tank!"
At least three protests have been organized across Oakland for the time period when Urban Shield is happening.
At noon on September 5th, family members of the victims of police violence and their supporters will gather for a solidarity barbeque and rally near Lake Merritt, then march to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland (12th & Broadway) where they will join others who will gather at 4:00 PM for a press conference and rally denouncing Urban Shield.
On Saturday, another march from Laney College to Oscar Grant Plaza is scheduled, followed by a town hall meeting on the topic of police violence and next steps.
Let's stop Urban Shield, and ultimately the militarization of police, so we don't have to see any more of this.