Protests force Marriott to cancel future SWAT weapons expos

WW photo: Terri KayOakland, Calif. — Close to 500 people blocked Broadway in front of the Marriott Convention Center in protest of an Urban Shield SWAT team training and weapons expo being held there. The negative publicity and pressure was so embarrassing for this urban hotel — especially in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Mo., rebellions — that the Marriott pledged not to contract with Urban Shield for future expos in Oakland.

According to protest organizers, “Urban Shield is the SWAT team training and weapons expo that brings together local, regional and global police-military units. … Urban Shield is connected to national police militarization programs such as 1033, 1122, Urban Areas Security Initiative and DHS Fusion Centers.”

The ad hoc coalition protesting the expo had four central demands: “[1] The city of Oakland must defund all activities related to Urban Shield, and all city agencies must withdraw their participation in it. [2] We demand an end to all city collaborations with the apartheid state of Israel. [3] We demand that the city of Oakland invest in community-based programs proven to decrease violence and harm instead of the increased militarization of its police force and emergency services. [4] We call on our communities to continue fighting back and resisting state violence and repression.”

Speakers at the rally included Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center; Jeralynn Blueford, mother of Alan Blueford, who was killed by an Oakland police officer; Dionne Smith, mother of James Rivera Jr, killed by the Stockton, Calif., police; and Cyndi Mitchell, sister of Mario Romero, killed by the Vallejo, Calif., police.

Endorsers included AROC, Critical Resistance, the War Resisters League, Anakbayan East Bay, Code Pink, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, the Oakland Privacy Working Group, the Xicana Moratorium Coalition, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism, Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace and Workers World Party.

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