OAKLAND (BCN) -- About 150 people gathered in front of the Alameda County sheriff's office near Lake Merritt in Oakland at 4 p.m. Friday to protest the "Urban Shield" law enforcement disaster training event hosted by the sheriff's office this weekend.
Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said this is the ninth year his department has hosted Urban Shield. Its purpose is to train law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics on how to respond to natural disasters as well as man-made disasters such as explosions and mass shootings.
Kelly said more than 100 agencies and 5,000 people, including some from foreign countries as far away as South Korea, are participating in the event which began Friday and concludes Monday.
Kelly said there's a vendor exhibit at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton of various weapons and resources for first responders and from 5 a.m. Saturday through 5 a.m. on Sunday there will 35 different training scenarios at critical locations throughout the Bay Area.
Urban Shield was launched several years after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, which Kelly said showed that law enforcement agencies weren't well prepared for such attacks.
But Mohamed Shekh of Critical Resistance, one of the groups participating in the action in Oakland today, said protesters believe that law enforcement agencies used 9/11 as a justification to become more militarized and spy on people.
Shekh said he believes Urban Shield teaches participants to "better control and repress communities around the world."
Protestors, some of whom were dressed like law enforcement officers and pointed fake guns at fellow protesters, blocked traffic at 13th and Oak streets and re-directed traffic at 14th and Oak streets, which is the intersection across the street from the sheriff's office.
Protesters carried signs that said, "Stop Urban Shield" and a large "Stop Urban Shield" banner was hanging atop a light standard at 14th and Oak streets.
Shekh said protesters count it as a victory that the vendor exhibit, which had previously always had been held in Oakland, has been moved to Pleasanton.
Kelly said, "In Pleasanton, the community is happy to have so many law enforcement officers present and are thankful to have them."
Kelly said hotel and restaurant owners in Pleasanton are also happy the event is being hosted there.
Shekh said the protest near the sheriff's office will last several hours and speakers will include family members of people killed by law enforcement officers.