For several years, AFSC has been deeply involved in opposing the police militarization program known as Urban Shield in the Bay Area. Urban Shield is a global weapons expo and SWAT training exercise that brings together law enforcement agencies and first responders from the U.S. and around the world—including those forces known for severe human rights abuses, including Mexico and the apartheid state of Israel—to collaborate on new forms of surveillance, state repression, and state violence..
Since 2007, Urban Shield has been held in Alameda County, which receives federal funding from the Department of Homeland Security to host the event. The county insists that Urban Shield is necessary to provide training for “public safety.” But we know that increased policing, militarized trainings, warfare technology, repressive tactics, and racial profiling only make our communities less—not more—safe. In recent years, local communities in the Bay Area and across the country—predominantly low-income communities of color—have been subject to an increase in SWAT raids, which have not only lead to death and injury, but also leave long-lasting trauma.
AFSC is part a broad coalition of grassroots community and social justice organizations that have united against Urban Shield—organizing and mobilizing hundreds of community members, advocating country officials, disrupting Urban Shield events, and reaching more members of the public through widespread media attention. Many of the young people we work with, including the immigrant youth who are part of our 67 Sueños program, are a vital part of these efforts.
In 2014, strong community organizing and resistance forced the city of Oakland to stop hosting Urban Shield. However, the sheriff has since moved the weapons expo to the Pleasanton Fairgrounds. Despite the setback, we are committed to continuing this work and engaging more people civically and politically to ensure that community welfare and safety is prioritized over militarization.
I invite you to watch videos featuring two of our youth who have courageously shared their stories of how SWAT raids have affected their lives—as part of our larger community effort to stop Urban Shield and make our communities safer for all.
Learn more about Stop Urban Shield.