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City of Berkeley to vote on Urban Shield war games and weapons expo

June 18, 2017

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News broadcast June 17, 2017

KPFA: This coming Tuesday, June 20, the Berkeley City Council will hold a special meeting starting at 6 p.m. to decide whether or not to keep sending officers to the annual Urban Shield war games and weapons expo, which is billed as the world’s largest tactical training exercise for law enforcement and first responders. One of the expo’s best-selling T-shirts reads “Black Rifles Matter.”

This is Urban Shield’s top-selling T-shirt.

Urban Shield expos have been held around the country since the 9/11 attacks. Roughly 5,000 people from over 100 police and emergency response agencies around the country attend the Bay Area’s Urban Shield expo, which is headquartered in Pleasanton but includes training exercises around the Bay. The Bay Area Urban Shield expo is always held on the anniversary of 9/11.

In December 2015, then Berkeley City Councilor Max Anderson spoke in favor of withdrawing:

Max Anderson: Probably just me and the mayor are the only ones that’ve been in the military on this council. But I tell you, the culture that’s cultivated by the type of training that you receive becomes the way you conduct yourselves.

When I was in the Marines in the early ‘60s, all our pop-up targets that we practiced on were Asians. You know now they’re Middle Easterners, so it kinda shifts, and so the rationale and the justification for targeting people on these bases shifts along with it.

Then Berkeley City Councilman Max Anderson speaks at a rally on April 14, 2015, condemning the brutality of militarized Berkeley police during a Black Lives Matter march earlier that year. They used batons, tear gas and projectiles against students from Berkeley High, Berkeley City College and UC Berkeley Black student unions. – Photo: Judith Scherr

And when military weapons follow military thinking into our police ranks, you know we have a problem. You know it’s a problem of association because when you’re in a combat situation, you’re thinking about survival, and you’re thinking about enemies and friendlies. And when you inculcate that into our environment here, and we start thinking about the citizenry as either being friendly or enemies, and react accordingly based on what designation we lay on people, then we’re sliding down that track.

And when you buttress that with demagogues and hate filled rhetoric, and you see the kind of incidents that are popping up around this country, you know the training needs to be much broader than it is now. And I’m really shocked that there’s no emphasis on de-escalation and conflict resolution and prevention.

KPFA: If the City of Berkeley votes differently this year and withdraws its officers from Urban Shield, or even withdraws them provisionally for one year, it will be the first city in the U.S. to do so.

Tuesday’s council meeting will be held at Longfellow Middle School, 1500 Derby, in Berkeley.

In Berkeley, for Pacifica/KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.

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