On September 9, over 500 activists from a wide range of communities descended on the alameda county fair grounds in pleasanton, california at the crack of dawn to disrupt the 10th annual urban shield expo. urban shield is a heinous military-promoting weapons expo, and tactical training for the police. Stop Urban Shield is a coalition led by five racial justice organizations: Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), Critical Resistance Oakland, BAYAN USA, Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Xicana Moratorium Coalition.
Funded by homeland security, the trade show features an extravaganza of evil gadgets/weapons for the repression of the people, draws police swat teams from all country and internationally including mexico and israel. For attendees there are displays of such insidious things as, special lighting systems for rounding up homeless people in nighttime encampments, armored vehicle companies displaying 75 different kinds of armored trucks for law enforcement, companies pushing geo spatial software for “intelligence gathering” (read spying on protesters), all manner of gun enterprises, robotic companies….a veritable cornucopia for the evil empire. In addition the SWAT police have myriad training exercises to better prepare for trying to squash the PEOPLE.
But the people just weren’t having it! After months of intricate organizing, a complicated plan to disrupt the expo began. The weapons extravaganza had been kicked out of Oakland in 2014 by the peoples wrath, now it was time to shut it down for good!
As the website for Stop Urban Shield puts it:
“While Urban Shield is just one front in the fight against the state’s attempt to militarize every aspect of our lives – from its war-making here and abroad, to the increasing presence of police in our schools, to the systemic murder of Black and Brown people at the hands of police – stopping Urban Shield would be a major victory against this growing trend of militarization in cities everywhere, from Oakland to Ferguson to Baltimore. Join us in resisting state violence against our communities and in fighting for genuine visions of safety and self-determination.”
The alameda fair grounds is an enormous area. Imagine trying orchestrate an action that is trying to shut down something the size of golden gate park. The action was composed of a number of different affinity groups locking down across entrance gates at strategic spots, several groups trying to block entrances to interior buildings and a rally and march which went around the perimeter to the different gates. Bay Area Solidarity Action Teams (BASAT) organized twenty climbers to hang giant banners across the entrance to the buildings and from the clock tower inside.
People from QUIT! (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) and LAGAI participated in various roles. Amanda and Clio were medics; Erica carried a QUIT! sign on the march; Deeg, Julie and Tory were security for Asians 4 Black Lives, locked down at the “green gate”, and Kate was support for an affinity group of allies locked down at the “red gate” entrance next to the campground.
At seven in the morning people doing lock-down actions and support people met in the parking lot of an office park near the fairgrounds, waiting for the signal to start from tactical. People doing the interior actions went first, a large faith based group and the BASAT climbers. Then suddenly the signal was given, and we jumped into cars and vans and went through the fair gates without stopping and the lock downs were quickly set up. A total of four lock-downs happened: Third World Resistance blocked the administrative gate where the rally and march began, the clergy and others blocked a building inside the fair grounds, Asians for Black lives and SURJ blocked gates, and the BASAT climbers deftly rerouted to the green gate when they were unable to get to the towers. They hung there for hours with a giant banner reading: “STOP URBAN SHIELD! NO TO MILITARIZATION!”
The actions began before 8 am and ended about noon. The best chant among many fine chants was:
WE DON’T WANT NO COPS
ROLLING DOWN OUR BLOCKS
WE MAKE THE VIOLENCE STOP
WE DROP IT LIKE ITS HOT.
At about 10 am the artistically dramatic, militant march walked three miles around the outskirts of the fairgrounds visiting and cheering the various locked-down gates. This made the assembled alameda county sheriffs very nervous, too much people power. Just before noon the sheriffs moved in giving dispersal orders and arresting 13 people from Asians 4 Black Lives. Earlier the police had arrested 10 people from the clergy group, bringing the total arrests to 23 people, all of whom were cited and released from santa rita jail.
The action was a success not only because of its precision organization and ambitious reach, shutting down such a huge area hosting a malevolent conference, but because in the face of escalated repression the coalition brought together a wide range of groups to stand in solidarity against the empire. Many issues were visibly linked: Black and brown resistance to killer cops, money for communities’ needs, not for militarized police and jails, urban displacement and police, prioritize health care not police, the role of israeli and usa’s promotion of militarization worldwide. The actions succeeded in disrupting the conference; they were forced to shut down parts of it. We made them hella anxious! It was not business as usual! The action got terrific press and was the lead story on local newscasts as well as reported on in many newspapers.
The next step for the coalition is to pressure the alameda county board of stupervisors to stop funding urban shield. People have been packing the board meetings discussing the county budget, demanding the immediate de-funding of urban shield. A community meeting was held in Oakland on September 19 to talk about future plans. Find out how you can plug in at http://stopurbanshield.org.
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED