By Bay City News Service
The Stop Urban Shield Coalition held a rally in front of the Alameda County government building near Lake Merritt in Oakland at 4 p.m. Friday to protest the "Urban Shield" law enforcement disaster training event
that's being hosted by the county sheriff's office this weekend.
Sheriff's officials say the purpose of the conference, which is being held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, 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.
Urban Shield was launched several years after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, which sheriff's officials said showed that law enforcement agencies weren't well prepared for such attacks.
More than 100 agencies and thousands of people, including some from foreign countries, have participated in past conferences.
Sheriff's officials weren't immediately available for comment on the details of this year's conference, which began on Thursday and will continue through Monday.
Members of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition allege that the conference increases the militarization of law enforcement officers.
Mohamed Shekh of Critical Resistance, one of the groups that will be participating in the rally in Oakland today, said this year's conference "comes on the heels of President Trump announcing that he will be lifting
restrictions on the transfer of military equipment to police departments."
Sharif Zakout of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center said in a statement, "Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern's Urban Shield fits neatly in line with Trump's greenlighting of military weapons going to police
departments and his attack on immigrants."
Zakout said, "As Trump is seeking more deportations and increased police militarization federally, Ahern is doing so locally by collaborating with ICE and hosting Urban Shield. They both are waging war on communities of color."
After the rally Stop Urban Shield organizers are also planning to hold a resource fair at the nearby Lake Merritt Amphitheater that's aimed at providing workshops, aid kits, and information on how communities themselves
can respond to emergency situations without militarized law enforcement.
In January the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to continue supporting the Urban Shield training exercise even though many board members said they share some of the concerns expressed by the Stop Urban Shield Coalition.
Board members said they believe Sheriff Ahern has put in adequate safeguards to make sure that the training program bans racial profiling, excludes vendors who display derogatory or racist messages and excludes the
sale or transfer of assault weapons and firearms.
As part of its vote, the board included an amendment to form an 18-member panel of community members, health officials and educational officials that will address the community's concerns about Urban Shield.