Alameda County leaders on Tuesday decided one of the country’s largest first responder exercises, Urban Shield, will continue despite growing calls to shut it down.
Several hundred people protested outside the Alameda County Board of Supervisors chamber, saying the Urban Shield exercise militarizes local law enforcement.
Lara Kiswani, of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition, said the program "actually trains officers and first responders to see people of color as enemy combatants, and they compete in SWAT raids where they’re taught to shoot and kill."
Protesters shouted down the organizer, Sheriff Gregory Ahern, then filled the supervisors chamber, where they made emotional pleas to end the program. Some even linked the training to the recent Sacramento police shooting of an unarmed man.
"If you think there’s no relationship to Urban Shield kind of training and what is happening to the killing of young black people in this country, you are wrong," Berkeley resident Micky Duxbury said.
Supporters, meanwhile, say the massive training exercise is critical preparation for possible disasters and terror attacks.
"We need to be prepared to handle these things properly and deal with them," Hayward police Chief Mark Koller said.
Supervisors voted to fund the $1.5 million exercise this year but said the future of the program will be decided by a newly created committee.