SWAT teams, police forces, and military contractors from across the world will converge in Oakland, California this weekend—October 25-28—for a little-known ‘Urban Shield’ global training exercise and weapons technology expo that is bankrolled by millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security and arms manufacturers and is billed as a program to fight ‘terrorism.’
They will be met on Friday by protesters from over 30 Bay-Area community and peace and justice organizations who say this gathering, that stands at the nexus of global and domestic militarization, is not welcome in their city.
“What Urban Shield represents to us is the epitome of state repression that has been impacting communities of color and immigrant communities for decades,” said Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center in an interview with Common Dreams. “Different strategies of surveillance against Arabs and Muslims and brown and black people are being used as tactics against our people back home. This is the militarization of the police.”
Coordinated this year by Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern, whose office is receiving $7.5 million in federal grants according to the War Resisters League, Urban Shield is a national effort overseen by a California-based private firm Cytel Inc. It is hosted by the Bay Area Urban Security Initiative that has been building collaboration between California police departments since 2006 and raking in Homeland Security funding since 2011. Its location moves annually.
Despite its global scope, the event has largely moved forward without the consent or knowledge of local residents and even some city council members.
SWAT Teams will hail from countries including Israel, Bahrain, Brazil, Guam and Qatar. As Max Blumenthal of Mondoweiss points out, past participants have included the Israeli Border Police Unit Yamam, which carries out extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinians, as well as Bahraini units that play a key role in violently repressing the country’s ongoing mass protests.
Attendees will carry out war games in Alameda County, as well as sample products from companies that produce tear gas, spying and surveillance systems, and military weapons.
As the East Bay Express notes, in addition to hefty federal backing, sponsors also include major arms companies including ATK, which produces depleted uranium ammunition. Numbered among its sponsors is the company Safariland, which the Facing Tear Gas Campaign of the War Resisters League has criticized for exporting tear gas to governments across the world, from Oakland to Israel to Tunisia, to be used as tools of repression and social control.
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