Opinion: It’s long past time — take us out of Urban Shield and NCRIC

There is no excuse for this City Council not to do what the council should have done a year and a half ago: take us out of Urban Shield and NCRIC.

By JP Massar

JP Massar is a Berkeley activist fighting against police militarization and the surveillance state.

A year and a half ago the City Council debated a proposal by then Police Review Commissioner Ben Bartlett to impose a one-year moratorium on Berkeley’s participation in Urban Shield.

At that meeting then Councilman Max Anderson spoke eloquently on police actions during the Black Lives Matter protests a year before and specifically about why Urban Shield was not the kind of training that Berkeley’s police should be engaging in. Here is a partial transcript of that speech, the part speaking directly to Urban Shield:

“…Probably just me and the Mayor [Tom Bates] are the only ones who have been in the military on this Council. But, I tell you, the culture that cultivated by the type of training that you receive becomes the way you conduct yourself.

When I was in the Marines in the early 60’s, all our popup targets that we practiced on were Asians. Now, they’re Middle-Easterners. So it kind of shifts.

So, the rationale and the justification for targeting people on these bases shifts along with it, and when military weapons follow military thinking into our police ranks, you know, we have a problem. It’s a problem of association, because, when you’re in a combat situation, you’re thinking about survival; you’re thinking about enemies and friendlies. When you inculcate that into our environment here, and when you start thinking about the citizenry as being either friendly or enemy, and we react accordingly based on what designation we lay on people, then we’re sliding down that track, and when you buttress that with demagogues and hate filled rhetoric, and you see the kinds of incidents that are popping up around this country. You know, the training needs to be much broader than it is now. And I’m really shocked that there’s no emphasis on de-escalation, and conflict resolution…”

(Watch the complete video — the transcripted remarks begin at approximately 5:05.)

Despite Anderson’s powerful words, the result of the proposed Urban Shield moratorium was that the council majority voted against Councilmen Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson’s proposal, while the progressive minority voted in favor:

Action: M/S/Failed (Worthington/Anderson) for the City to take a one-year hiatus from participation in Urban Shield activities.

Vote: Ayes – Anderson, Arreguin, Worthington; Noes – Maio, Moore, Capitelli, Droste, Bates; Abstain – None; Absent – Wengraf.

Similarly, on a motion to approve an agreement with NCRIC, the local Federal “fusion center” aka spy and data-collection center, the council majority voted in favor while the progressive minority voted against:

Action: M/S/C (Worthington/Anderson) to approve the agreement with NCRIC.

Vote: Ayes – Maio, Moore, Capitelli, Droste, Bates; Noes – Anderson, Arreguin, Worthington; Abstain – None; Absent – Wengraf.

On Tuesday, June 20, the new progressive majority City Council will be considering similar proposals — to withdraw from Urban Shield or perhaps to impose a moratorium on participation, and to not approve Berkeley’s continued cooperation with NCRIC.

The only thing that has changed between December 2015 and the present is the ascension of an unstable, narcissistic, alt-right-enabling person to the Presidency. This has resulted in the takeover of the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and the subordinate agencies that finance Urban Shield and manage NCRIC by those who would gladly deport many of Berkeley’s residents, put others in internment camps, and arrest a number of the rest of us for federal drug crimes. For example, Thomas Homan, acting ICE Director, was reported as saying just days ago by the Washington Times:

“Anyone in the country without authorization is a target for enforcement… We shouldn’t wait for them to become a criminal… Illegal immigrants deserve the blame for separating families.”

There is no excuse for this City Council not to do what it should have done a year and a half ago, and plenty of additional reasons to do so.

The time is now: take us out of Urban Shield and NCRIC.