If it wasn’t so terrifying, this staggering hypocrisy would be comical. But last night, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone laughing.
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.
And the irony? The police spent the last six hours convincing the City Council that police violence is not a problem in Berkeley, in large part, Chief Greenwood claims, because of BPD’s participation in the massive militarization training and weapons expo, Urban Shield. He boasted time and again about their training in de-escalation.
We didn’t have to wait long to prove them wrong: a short time later, those same officers were trampling the democracy and spilling the blood of those they are sworn to protect and serve.
Meanwhile, the City Council has blood on its hands as well.
After three marathon meetings packed with unanimous opposition, months of testimony, research, and public debate — and a vocal expression by the vast majority of the council that this program is replaceable, misaligns priorities, and doesn’t fit with Berkeley values — somehow, the council very nearly found their way to tacitly endorsing Urban Shield once again.
Endorsing a multi-million dollar war game engineered by Jeff Sessions protégé Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern, where local police train alongside soldiers from foreign armies, participate in “counter-terrorist” scenarios based on islamophobic stereotypes, and literally sell bazookas and racist T-shirts. This is what our progressive elected leadership is standing for.
And when community members, seeing the writing on the wall that every council member (except Kate Harrison and Cheryl Davila) were going to endorse yet another year of participation in this hegemonic boondoggle, interrupted the vote, how did the council respond?
All but Davila disappeared behind closed doors, called in the Urban Shield trained police and their batons, and hoped that their famed eight-hour de-escalation training would suffice to bring a peaceful end to the evening. Seconds later, peaceful community members were being brutalized, blood was on the street, and the myth of how non-violent Urban Shield was, was over.
Mayor Arreguín, members of the City Council, and every member of the police force should be ashamed.
And if they needed any more proof that Urban Shield is a poisonous disaster for our communities, they need to look no further than the nightmare they created last night.
Pete Woiwode is a resident of District 3 in Berkeley, represented by City Councilman Ben Bartlett. He will be protesting at City Hall at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, June 21, and following http://stopurbanshield.org/