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Berkeley Students to Police: Drop ‘Islamophobic’ Emergency Training

Members of UC Berkeley’s Associated Students at the University of California (ASUC) Senate passed a resolution on Wednesday night that would ban a U.S. Department of Homeland Security-sponsored emergency response training program, known as Urban Shields, from the University of California Police Department (UCPD).

The students suggested that the program promotes “racial profiling,” and has contributed to “Islamophobia,” among other complaints.

The resolution alleges that the “UCPD in the past has harassed and intimidated students with their tactics, especially students on campus,” noted that the UCPD’s participation in the program contributes to “significant fear growing among citizens” and even suggested that “Urban Shield has been known for producing harmful ideologies” including conducting “Islamophobic trainings,” and embodying “apparent anti-blackness, and white supremacist messages.” 

UCPD participated in a training involving a case scenario where a Muslim man was fired from his workshops and he began “screaming that he wanted to hurt the Jews for what they have done to him and his people,” after visiting a “pro-jihadist website,” portraying Muslims and Islamic values as inherently violent, threatening and anti-Semitic… These Islamophobic trainings have strong potential to influence how officers interact with and approach Muslim students, some of whom already have felt disrespected by UCPD.

According to UC Berkeley’s student-run newspaper the Daily Californian, Urban Shield aims to improve the level of preparedness that UCPD has for emergency response situations. However, John Lindsay-Poland, who co-sponsored the resolution, told the paper in an email that terminating the UCPD’s participation in Urban Shield “would be an important step to demilitarize the university,” adding that “UCPD should commit to institutionalizing training that is sensitive to communities of color … and remove assault weapons, armored personnel carriers, and other militarized material from its deployment equipment.”

In a similar controversy this past November, students occupying the administration building at Occidental College in Los Angeles demanded that campus police stop wearing bulletproof vests. Campus safety officers blasted the students’ demands, noting that the vests are their only line of defense since they are unarmed.

In 2014, a consortium of activists gathered in Oakland under the title of “Stop Urban Shield Coalition” to protest against the security training program being held at the Marriott in Downtown Oakland. The group was reportedly able to prevent the training program from taking place at the hotel. “Reclaiming the streets in celebration of our power, we made it loud and clear that we do not welcome militarization and policing of our communities,” read part of a message they posted to stopteargas.org. “And our Coalition insists that we must work to roll this back while advancing community-led initiatives to provide actual safety.”

The protest was organized by members of the Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), and was endorsed by Code Pink, Causa Justa (Just Cause), Environmentalists Against War and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, among others.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.

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