By Sarah Ravani, SF Gate
Protesters chained themselves together and blocked the main gates of the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton Friday morning to demonstrate their opposition to the Urban Shield police training and expo scheduled there this weekend.
About 10 demonstrators chained themselves together and formed a line in front of the gates on Pleasanton Avenue, but police attending the expo and training exercises were able to get into the fairgrounds through other entrances.
Twenty demonstrators were arrested and later booked at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on suspicion of blocking traffic and failing to disperse, said Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. He said all were expected to be released Friday evening.
“Those arrested were locked down at one of the entrances to the expo, chained against the railings,” said Mohamed Shehk, spokesman for the group Critical Resistance. “But we expected to be met with police violence with arrests and it’s what we have to do, put ourselves on the line to fight Urban Shield and the system of policing.”
For the most part, the protest, which drew several hundred demonstrators, remained peaceful as participants marched up and down Pleasanton Avenue chanting, “Urban Shield is filthy! Filthy! The whole damn system is Guilty! Guilty!” They also chanted, “Turn up and shut it down, we do this for Mike Brown,” referring to the 18-year-old African American man shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, a killing that ignited days of protests.
Among those chained together outside the main gate of the fairgrounds was April Martin, 37, a West Oakland filmmaker and photographer.
“I’m out here because I have a 4-year-old black nephew and I want a better world for him,” said Martin. “I don’t want to fear him walking down the street and be harassed and killed.”
Believed to be the largest tactical exercise in the nation, the multiday Urban Shield event provides first responders from throughout the Bay Area and country with training techniques and equipment to use in an array of emergency scenarios, including hostage situations, terrorist attacks and active-shooter incidents.
The event, which started with registration on Wednesday and will run through Monday, also draws hundreds of vendors displaying state-of-the-art gizmos for crime fighters and other first responders.
But protesters see Urban Shield as a forceful display of the growing militarization of police forces across the country. Organizers of Friday’s demonstration condemned the event as “promoting further violence and an increased war mentality by police in marginalized communities.”
“The same repressive international forces backed by the US to oppress people across the world are coming together to train with police forces in our local neighborhoods,” said Nora Abedelal, of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. “We are here today to stand with all communities against militarization of police, and to demand an end to Urban Shield.”