Voting on a long-delayed and highly controversial agenda item centering on the City of Berkeley’s contract with Urban Shield, a Homeland Security-affiliated program of militarizing the nation’s streets, finally came to the vote the evening of Tuesday, June 20 in a location, Longfellow Middle School, deliberately chosen because it could hold the 500 folx who showed up.
From the start of the evening, tensions were high. Hundreds of Berkeley citizens had expected to make their voices heard last month at the council meeting originally designated to include this item on its agenda but after the meeting dragged on till the wee hours of the morning the item was postponed.
On June 20, the council—and the public—came fully prepared. The agenda included three issues: Would the City of Berkeley continue or sever its contract with Urban Shield; would the City continue its relationship with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) and would the City purchase a bullet-proof armored personnel carrier at a cost to Berkeley of $80,000 funded at a cost of another $125,000 by the Department of Homeland Security (in possible anticipation of a huge wave of civil unrest.)
Alameda County Sheriff Ahern’s 10-year-old police militarization extravaganza, Urban Shield, combines an assault weapon and surveillance technology vendor expo with practice skits in a variety of assaults engineered by narco-terrorists, eco-terrorists, anarcho-terrorists and a plethora of unhappy people of Middle Eastern descent, most of whom are shot dead with large assault weapons,” writes Tracy Rosenberg for Berkeleyside. “This is interrupted by shopping for the latest T-shirt declaring that “Black Rifles Matter” (instead of Black Lives Matter). The expo sucks up millions of dollars in federal grants leaving virtually nothing left over for public health and emergency preparedness, and factually defunding existing emergency programs like CERT and CARD — much as the 2003 absorption of FEMA into the Department of Homeland Security exacerbated the disastrous Hurricane Katrina response in Louisiana in 2005.
“Berkeley’s deputization of police officers as “Terrorism Liaison Officers” under the fusion center agreement with the Northern CA Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) places local cops under the direct supervision of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)As stated:“TLOs shall not independently investigate tips or leads unless directed to do so by the proper authorities i.e. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), Fusion Center, etc.” This implies municipal police cooperation with ICE in what has officially been declared a sanctuary city.
After pointing out that U.S. fire practice targets during the Vietnam war showing Asian features morphed into those showing Middle-east figures, one witness, Iraq war veteran Scott Kimball stated: “Those weapons and tactics are used to kill people. They are not going to make our community safer.” Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated event, the NRA is circulating a video apparently calling for armed resistance to what’s characterized as the “liberal agenda.”
The vote to continue the contract took place after midnight. Evidence seems to suggest that the decision had been taken before the meeting even began., and that allowing 4 hours of testimony had been a mere pro forma exercise. As a tactic for disrespecting those present, the mayor’s gesture could not have been more pointed. Following the announcement of the vote results, the outraged but non-violent audience mounted the stage and unfurled their huge banner, prompting the Council to call in the cops.
But what ensued proved beyond any doubt exactly what the citizens of Berkeley could expect with Urban Shield: To quote Peter Woiwode writing for Berkeleyside: “Berkeley Police beat, pushed and battered over 200 peaceful protesters late last night, bloodying at least two and arresting two more. With fear and anger written across their faces, dozens of officers struck elderly people with batons, targeted trans people and people of color, drove recklessly into peaceful crowds, and escalated a peaceful protest into a violent, chaotic mess….The myth of how non-violent Urban Shield was, was over.”
man bleeds from head wound
after police baton hits him
Natalie Orenstein writing for Berkeleyside, states that, “Organizers are demanding a re-vote on Berkeley’s participation in Urban Shield. Represented by the Oakland law firm Siegel & Yee, they are alleging that the City Council violated the Brown Act by privately discussing the vote before the meeting, voting on an unclear amendment to the original item and holding a vote that was not publicly audible amid disruption. The firm has sent Zach Cowan, the city attorney, a “Cure and Correct” notice, demanding a re-vote within 30 days.”
Meantime the U.S. Council of Mayors recently passed a resolution denouncing Trump’s allocation of $54 billion additional dollars to the Pentagon, and calling for demilitarizing the nation’s streets and reallocating funds to anti-poverty and environmental programs.
We wonder where supposedly “progressive” Mayor Arreguin was when that vote was counted.
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