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Oakland Mayor: City Will Not Host Urban Shield Conference Next Year

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Friday that a disaster preparedness conference and training exercise that drew protests Friday evening will not take place in Oakland next year.

The Urban Shield Conference, an event that brings together local, state and federal agencies as well as private equipment vendors and companies, drew several hundred protestors concerned with increasing police militarization to downtown Oakland Friday evening.

Hosted by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office for the past eight years, the event has taken place in Oakland for the past two years but will be held elsewhere next year, Quan said.

"The City Administrators Office will be asking our agent not to pursue another contract," Quan said in a statement issued Friday evening.

Protestors at Friday's rally, which started at 4 p.m., blocked Broadway for several hours, but police reported no arrests, citations, injuries or uses of force. The protest was organized by California Partnership, a statewide coalition of groups that advocate for policies and programs to end poverty.

Quan said that in the wake of a controversial police shooting and protests in Ferguson, Missouri last month that drew a heavy-handed police response, Oakland officials have fielded questions about police use of military-style hardware.

"It's important to note that OPD has no military surplus hardware at all, and no fully-automatic weapons," she said.

Quan also argued that the department has made major strides in improving its community policing and practices, and has seen a sharp reduction in civilian complaints against officers.

"There are good people on all sides of these issues working hard every day to create a safer Oakland with stronger relationships between our hardworking officers and our inspiring communities," Quan said.

Pete Woiwode of the California Partnership said the people participating in the rally are opposed to what they believe is the militarization of law enforcement, especially in light of the Ferguson., Mo., incident.

"Police shouldn't be using tanks and grenade launchers," Woiwode said.

An announcement about the conference that's posted on the Sheriff's website says: "Urban Shield has grown into a comprehensive,full-scale regional preparedness exercise assessing the overall Bay Area region's response capabilities related to multi-discipline planning, policies, procedures, organization, equipment and training."

Urban Shield is scheduled to continue through Monday.

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