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Urban Shield Police Training Draws Anti-Miitarization Protesters


September 11, 2016
Peter Fimrite and Sarah Ravani / San Francisco Chronicle & Henry Austin / The Independent

Protesters blocked the main gates of the Alameda County Fairgrounds in California to demonstrate their opposition to the Urban Shield police training and expo held over the weekend. Believed to be the largest tactical exercise in the nation, the multiday Urban Shield event provides first responders from throughout the country with training techniques and equipment to use in an array of emergency scenarios, including hostage situations, terrorist attacks and active-shooter incidents.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Urban-Shield-police-weaponry-expo-draws-protests-9213916.php

Urban Shield Police Weaponry Expo Draws Protests
Peter Fimrite and Sarah Ravani / San Francisco Chronicle



A member of the Richmond Police Department SWAT team looks into a scope of a sniper rifle

(September 9, 2016) -- The extravaganza of weaponry and law enforcement gadgetry held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds on Friday set off a major protest, as predicted, amid ongoing tension across the country over reports of police violence, including several shootings of African Americans.

The 10th annual Urban Shield vendor display, an annual trade show and training exercise that is designed to prepare law enforcement and emergency workers for major emergencies, drew an angry, surging crowd of as many as 500 protesters who blocked streets around the fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

The protesters said the police, military personnel, firefighters and emergency workers looking at weapons and other gizmos inside represented a slap in the face to those who have suffered under what they called the militarization of the police.

"I don't feel safe when the police are in my neighborhood," said Megan Whelan, 29, of Oakland, who joined the protest, which started early in the morning and lasted into the afternoon. "I've seen and witnessed their terror. I'm standing with those families who are fearful."

The four-day event, which will include tactical training for SWAT teams, bomb squads and emergency workers, opened Friday with dozens of vendors displaying their wares, including helmets, sniper rifles, spotting scopes, bomb suits, stun guns, body armor and other high-tech gadgets.

It drew police, firefighters and emergency medical service workers from about 200 agencies around the country as well as US Army personnel and federal police from Mexico.



A look at the extravaganza of weaponry known as Urban Shield. (Video by Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle.

The event, funded by the federal Department of Homeland Security, is coordinated by the Alameda County Sheriff's Department in an attempt to make sure law enforcement is ready for disasters and terrorist attacks and equipped to help others in crisis.

"This event is so we can learn how to appropriately and safely protect every citizen from mass shootings, fires and other emergencies and have the technology to do that," said Hans Jorgensen, 31, of the North Central Regional SWAT team, which serves northern San Mateo County.

The protesters weren't convinced. They chanted, waved signs and denounced what they perceive as the growing military-style aggression by police in urban neighborhoods and against people of color. Alameda County sheriff's deputies detained 20 demonstrators after they blocked fairground entrances.

"I'm here to end the promotion of violence, people with money trying to come and manipulate us as people of color with their money and their weaponry," said Subah Shawasheh, 18, a Palestinian American from San Francisco.

"The whole conference is about selling weapons and how to terrorize communities faster," said Jennie Kogan, 24, of Berkeley. "I don't want to keep seeing black and brown people killed."

Urban Shield is being held in Pleasanton this year after protesters drove it out of Oakland, where it had been in previous years. On Friday, police blocked access to the fairgrounds and kept demonstrators far from the event, where only preregistered attendees were allowed.

Inside the vendor warehouse, police officers from various agencies crowded around the displays, including one featuring a mannequin with blood spurting out of its leg, which had been cut off at the knee. The officers were supposed to stanch the bleeding using a tourniquet.

Vendors were hawking many nonlethal devices, including flash bangs, pepper spray and stun guns. Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, gas masks and a newfangled version of flashing police car lights were also on display.

Murphy Kitchell, a mechanical engineer for SRI International, was showing off what he called the exo-suit, an electric-powered knee brace that he says can double the strength of a person's legs and help him or her walk farther and climb higher.

The extravaganza of weaponry and law enforcement gadgetry held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds on Friday set off a major protest, as predicted, amid ongoing tension across the country over reports of police violence, including several shootings of African Americans.

The 10th annual Urban Shield vendor display, an annual trade show and training exercise that is designed to prepare law enforcement and emergency workers for major emergencies, drew an angry, surging crowd of as many as 500 protesters who blocked streets around the fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

The protesters said the police, military personnel, firefighters and emergency workers looking at weapons and other gizmos inside represented a slap in the face to those who have suffered under what they called the militarization of the police.

"I don't feel safe when the police are in my neighborhood," said Megan Whelan, 29, of Oakland, who joined the protest, which started early in the morning and lasted into the afternoon. "I've seen and witnessed their terror. I'm standing with those families who are fearful."

The four-day event, which will include tactical training for SWAT teams, bomb squads and emergency workers, opened Friday with dozens of vendors displaying their wares, including helmets, sniper rifles, spotting scopes, bomb suits, stun guns, body armor and other high-tech gadgets.

It drew police, firefighters and emergency medical service workers from about 200 agencies around the country as well as US Army personnel and federal police from Mexico.

The event, funded by the federal Department of Homeland Security, is coordinated by the Alameda County Sheriff's Department in an attempt to make sure law enforcement is ready for disasters and terrorist attacks and equipped to help others in crisis.

"This event is so we can learn how to appropriately and safely protect every citizen from mass shootings, fires and other emergencies and have the technology to do that," said Hans Jorgensen, 31, of the North Central Regional SWAT team, which serves northern San Mateo County.

The protesters weren't convinced. They chanted, waved signs and denounced what they perceive as the growing military-style aggression by police in urban neighborhoods and against people of color. Alameda County sheriff's deputies detained 20 demonstrators after they blocked fairground entrances.

"I'm here to end the promotion of violence, people with money trying to come and manipulate us as people of color with their money and their weaponry," said Subah Shawasheh, 18, a Palestinian American from San Francisco.

"The whole conference is about selling weapons and how to terrorize communities faster," said Jennie Kogan, 24, of Berkeley. "I don't want to keep seeing black and brown people killed."

Urban Shield is being held in Pleasanton this year after protesters drove it out of Oakland, where it had been in previous years. On Friday, police blocked access to the fairgrounds and kept demonstrators far from the event, where only preregistered attendees were allowed.

Inside the vendor warehouse, police officers from various agencies crowded around the displays, including one featuring a mannequin with blood spurting out of its leg, which had been cut off at the knee. The officers were supposed to stanch the bleeding using a tourniquet.

Vendors were hawking many nonlethal devices, including flash bangs, pepper spray and stun guns. Kevlar helmets, night vision goggles, gas masks and a newfangled version of flashing police car lights were also on display.

Murphy Kitchell, a mechanical engineer for SRI International, was showing off what he called the exo-suit, an electric-powered knee brace that he says can double the strength of a person's legs and help him or her walk farther and climb higher.

"This is less Iron Man and more Spiderman," he said, pointing out that the brace weighs only eight pounds. "It's adding energy to your step. The goal is to improve mobility."

Kitchell said the technology, which has not yet hit the market, can be used not only by law enforcement and military personnel, but also by the elderly and disabled. The company is also working on a robot to disarm bombs and a pack that uses a water circulation system to keep hazardous materials and body armor suits cool.

"I don't think anybody out there is protesting a bomb disposal squad or a team trying to get rid of hazardous materials," said Roy Kornbluh, principal research engineer on the circulation system. "Even if it's being used for body armor, would you rather have an officer who is cool and calm or hot and bothered?"

There was plenty of weaponry in the mix, including a .338 Lapua Magnum, a particularly lethal-looking black sniper rifle.

"You can shoot out to a mile and it can penetrate plated steel or heavy glass," said Juan Lopez, a salesman for Mile High Shooting Accessories in Colorado. The protesters "can call it militarization, but if the technology helps law enforcement do its job better, what does it matter? I've never known a rifle to discriminate against anybody."


Urban Shield Police Training in East Bay Draws Protesters
Sarah Ravani / San Francisco Chronicle

(September 9, 2016) -- Protesters chained themselves together and blocked the main gates of the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton Friday morning to demonstrate their opposition to the Urban Shield police training and expo scheduled there this weekend.

About 10 demonstrators chained themselves together and formed a line in front of the gates on Pleasanton Avenue, but police attending the expo and training exercises were able to get into the fairgrounds through other entrances.

Twenty demonstrators were arrested and later booked at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on suspicion of blocking traffic and failing to disperse, said Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. He said all were expected to be released Friday evening.

"Those arrested were locked down at one of the entrances to the expo, chained against the railings," said Mohamed Shehk, spokesman for the group Critical Resistance. "But we expected to be met with police violence with arrests and it's what we have to do, put ourselves on the line to fight Urban Shield and the system of policing."

For the most part, the protest, which drew several hundred demonstrators, remained peaceful as participants marched up and down Pleasanton Avenue chanting, "Urban Shield is filthy! Filthy! The whole damn system is Guilty! Guilty!" They also chanted, "Turn up and shut it down, we do this for Mike Brown," referring to the 18-year-old African American man shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, a killing that ignited days of protests.

"The protesters have been very cooperative and we've been working with them. Our goal is peace," said Lt. Kurt Schlehuber of the Pleasanton Police Department.

Among those chained together outside the main gate of the fairgrounds was April Martin, 37, a West Oakland filmmaker and photographer.

"I'm out here because I have a 4-year-old black nephew and I want a better world for him," said Martin. "I don't want to fear him walking down the street and be harassed and killed."

Believed to be the largest tactical exercise in the nation, the multiday Urban Shield event provides first responders from throughout the Bay Area and country with training techniques and equipment to use in an array of emergency scenarios, including hostage situations, terrorist attacks and active-shooter incidents.

The event, which started with registration on Wednesday and will run through Monday, also draws hundreds of vendors displaying state-of-the-art gizmos for crime fighters and other first responders.

But protesters see Urban Shield as a forceful display of the growing militarization of police forces across the country. Organizers of Friday's demonstration condemned the event as "promoting further violence and an increased war mentality by police in marginalized communities."

"The same repressive international forces backed by the US to oppress people across the world are coming together to train with police forces in our local neighborhoods," said Nora Abedelal, of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. "We are here today to stand with all communities against militarization of police, and to demand an end to Urban Shield."


North Dakota Becomes first US State to legalise Use of Armed drones by Police
It is unclear whether local police departments will use weaponised devices, even though they are technically legal

Henry Austin / The Independent

(September 8, 2015) -- Armed drones could be used by police in the US state of North Dakota after local lawmakers legalised their use. While they will be limited to "less than lethal" weapons, tear gas, tasers, rubber bullets and pepper spray could all be used in theory by the remote controlled flying machines.

In a classic case of unintended consequences, the original sponsor, Republican state representative Rick Becker said he was unhappy with the way legislation turned out.

His original intention was to prevent law enforcement officials from using the unmanned aerial vehicles from conducting surveillance on private property without a warrant. "In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponised," he said.

The original draft of the House Bill 1328 said: "A state agency may not authorize the use of, including granting a permit to use, an unmanned aircraft armed with any lethal or non-lethal weapons, including firearms, pepper spray, bean bag guns, mace, and sound-based weapons."

However, the state's police union amended the Bill, limiting the ban to only lethal weapons, meaning that sounds cannons or rubber bullets could be used on police drones, according to The Daily Beast.

Mr. Becker said that he didn't fight the amendments, telling the Arstehnica website that he wanted "the Bill to pass to at least require warrants." However, he said that he will aim to change the law in two-years' time when North Dakota's House of Representatives returns to session. It is unclear whether local police departments will use weaponised drones, even though they are technically legal.

Police officers are subject to local and departmental rules that can substantially limit what tactics are allowed. However, at least 39 people have been killed by police tasers in 2015, according to The Guardian.

The fact that a suspect could potentially be tasered by an officer sitting hundreds of miles away will likely add to the concerns of those who are worried about the militarisation of US police departments.

Concerns were raised following events in Ferguson, Missouri, where mostly peaceful protests over the killing by a police officer of black man Michael Brown were met over several nights by lines of body-armoured police brandishing automatic weapons, and in some cases riding mine-resistant military-style vehicles.

It prompted President Barack Obama to ordered a comprehensive review of policies that have encouraged police departments across the United States to acquire ever greater quantities of military kit that was once the reserve of professional soldiers last month.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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