Thanks to a tip from a reader, we bring you the following video by way of Tasha Levine at The Exiled, taped at 01:10 on 22 December at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Center Street in Berkeley during the eviction of the Occupy Berkeley encampment.
The images are important for two reasons:
- First, as yet one more example of police intimidation of those who dare to document their actions.
- Second, as proof of the growing militarization of American law enforcement.
Levine writes [emphasis added]:
A video recorded by OccupyNewsandMedia during last week’s early-morning raid on Occupy Berkeley shows a burly Berkeley cop strutting around with a repeat-fire tear gas grenade launcher, menacingly pointing it at protesters without provocation. At one point the bloodlusting cop threatens to shoot pointblank the guy with the camera, telling him “You back up…you may not understand it til’ I use this, but you better back up”– before charging the videographer with his grenade launcher pointed right at the camera guy’s face.
The weapon– sleek, with a matte black finish that reflects almost no light–looks like it can do some serious damage. And it can. That’s because it’s a military-grade high-velocity, repeat-fire Penn Arms grenade launcher designed to lob flash-bang grenades, tear gas canisters, plastic buckshot, and fat rubber and wooden pellets called “batons” at high velocity and precision at human targets as far as a football field away.
This is the same weapon the Oakland Police Department used to shoot 24-year-old Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen in the face with a tear gas canister at close range. The impact of the round, which was fired by an unidentified riot trooper from no more than 10 feet away, fractured Olsen’s skull and left him with minor brain damage, including a speech impediment. Olsen would have died from his wound had he not received emergency brain surgery in time.
Levine also quotes an earlier Exiled article by Max Blumenthal with some ominous implications of its own:
In October, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department turned parts of the campus of the University of California in Berkeley into an urban battlefield. The occasion was Urban Shield 2011,an annual SWAT team exposition organized to promote “mutual response,” collaboration and competition between heavily militarized police strike forces representing law enforcement departments across the United States and foreign nations.
At the time, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department was preparing for an imminent confrontation with the nascent “Occupy” movement that had set up camp in downtown Oakland, and would demonstrate the brunt of its repressive capacity against the demonstrators a month later when it attacked the encampment with teargas and rubber bullet rounds, leaving an Iraq war veteran in critical condition and dozens injured. According to Police Magazine, a law enforcement trade publication, “Law enforcement agencies responding to…Occupy protesters in northern California credit Urban Shield for their effective teamwork.”
Training alongside the American police departments at Urban Shield was the Yamam, an Israeli Border Police unit that claims to specialize in “counter-terror” operations but is better known for its extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders and long record of repression and abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Urban Shield also featured a unit from the military of Bahrain, which had just crushed a largely non-violent democratic uprising by opening fire on protest camps and arresting wounded demonstrators when they attempted to enter hospitals. While the involvement of Bahraini soldiers in the drills was a novel phenomenon, the presence of quasi-military Israeli police – whose participation in Urban Shield was not reported anywhere in US media – reflected a disturbing but all-too-common feature of the post-9/11 American security landscape.
Here’s a video we posted earlier of a 25 October campus police training exercise where officers practices the skills learned in Urban Shield before their beatdowns of students and faculty on 9 November: