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'Urban Shield' Officer Training Event Greeted By Protests In Downtown Oakland

OAKLAND (CBS SF) - A small group of people gathered in front of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland Friday to protest the "Urban Shield" law enforcement disaster training event being hosted by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office at the hotel this weekend.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb of the Facing Urban Shield Action Network said, "The whole mentality of Urban Shield is taking money away from affordable housing, health care and food stamps."

Gottlieb said Urban Shield training is creating "the militarization of police" and said it means "the war is coming home to our streets."

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said this is the seventh year his department has hosted Urban Shield and said its purpose is to train law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics on how to respond to natural disasters as well as man-made disasters such as explosions and mass shootings.

Nelson said the militarization of police "has happened since the beginning of time," noting that technology developed in the Civil War and World War II was used by police officers after those conflicts.

Among the items that were developed during wars that were later used by police officers were bulletproof vests and radio communications, Nelson said.

He said protesters seem to be objecting most strongly to the increased use of armored vehicles by law enforcement agencies but said such vehicles sometimes are the safest way to respond to violent situations.

Nelson said first responders from throughout the U.S. as well as from several foreign countries are participating in Urban Shield, which will last until Monday morning.

The event includes 54 training scenarios in Dublin, Livermore, Castro Valley, San Leandro, Oakland, Alameda, Newark, Fremont, Menlo Park, Foster City, San Francisco, South San Francisco, San Bruno and Richmond.

More than 100 agencies and 5,000 people are participating in the event, Nelson said.

The law enforcement convention and the protest are occurring on the second anniversary of the police raid at the Occupy Oakland encampment that was erected in 2011.

Scott Olsen, a war veteran who was seriously injured when he was hit in the head by a police projectile during the raid on Oct. 25, 2011, said he's disturbed by what he believes is a trend by law enforcement officials to "paint the public as the enemy."

Olsen said the militarization of police "won't stop unless it is stopped."

The Rev. Phil Lawson, a retired United Methodist pastor, said, "Having Urban Shield in Oakland is a sign of insanity."

Lawson said Urban Shield "is insane when we have so much violence already in our midst."

Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant III, a Hayward man who was killed by a BART police officer at a station in Oakland four years ago, said there is only "a blurred distinction" between police officers and soldiers.

Johnson said the militarization of police is a symptom of what he described as "the post-9/11 security state at the expense of civil liberties."

Protesters said they planned to have a rally and vigil at 5 p.m. and then march to Oakland City Hall for a dinner to mark the two-year anniversary of the police raid on Occupy Oakland.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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