By Cierra Martinez @CIERRAMARIE26
On Friday Sept. 9, over 500 citizens from the Bay Area gathered at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton to protest against Urban Shield Weapons Expo.
According to the “Stop Urban Shield” activists, Urban Shield brings together police units from across the country for 48 consecutive hours of highly militarized scenarios, a program that activists condemn as promoting further violence and an increased war mentality by police in marginalized communities.
The Urban Shield Expo has been held every year in the Bay Area since 2007 “sharing tactics in militarizing neighborhoods.”
In 2014 Stop Urban Shield activists successfully influenced the city of Oakland not to host the Urban Shields weapons expo, it was instead moved to Pleasanton.
At 8 a.m. activists locked their arms in pipes with each other, standing side by side outside blocking entrances to the gates surrounding the fairgrounds. Activists stood for four hours in the heat throughout the protest, while wearing black t-shirts with banners pinned on the front that said “end state repression.”
The protest began with an opening of a native spiritual dance, for the lives lost due to police brutality, as well as celebrating the lives who are still alive in joining each other at the protest.
Speakers of organizations such as the League of Filipino Students, Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project and International Women’s alliance spoke at the protest of why they were joining fellow protestors, as well as sharing their own personal experience with police brutality.
One of the protest leaders, Woods Ervin, stated, “As a black transgender and organizer, my membership is often at times harassed. Police at times look to harass black citizens, especially transgender citizens, there is something to be said about walking while trans.”
The activists’ primary goal in shutting down the gates resulted in the streets of Bernal and Valley being closed by Pleasanton police due to the protesters marching around the fairgrounds.
According to Urban Shield’s website, “Urban Shield continues to test regional integrated systems for prevention, protection, response, and recovery in their high-threat and high-density urban area.”
Urban Shield’s motto “Intense Training For Intense Times” claims that Urban Shield challenges the skills, knowledge and abilities of all who participate.
A total of 23 protesters were arrested for trespassing and obstructing roads, in protesting against Urban Shield and its military training which police from all over the world are receiving today.
“After today our goal is to convince different cities across the Bay Area that six million dollars could go towards jobs, housing, medical emergencies, and that hospitals could be reopened instead of spending it on weapons expos” Ervin said.
With the protest ending peacefully, organizers plan to continue their campaign throughout communities to ensure that Urban Shield no longer takes place. Stating after unlocking themselves from their arm pipes, “We’ll be back!”