Buddhists Blockade Hotel to Protest Police-Military Training
[Note: If you’re local to the Bay Area and would like to participate in the growing coalition campaign to Stop Urban Shield, join the large rally and protest outside the Marriott Hotel in downtown Oakland at 4pm on Friday, Sept. 5th.]
A war is raging, not just overseas, but here on U.S. city streets.
Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, John Crawford, and Ezell Ford are just a few of those recently killed in this war against young black and brown people. In Ferguson, MO, we have seen this war escalate so that a grieving community becomes an enemy that must be subdued.
On Sunday, August 31st, Buddhist Peace Fellowship and allies in Oakland, CA, took direct action to resist one part of this war on black and brown people: the militarization of U.S. police forces.
What Is Urban Shield?
Urban Shield is a weapons expo and SWAT training for police to practice militarized techniques, learning to be even more deadly. In early September the Marriott Hotel will once again host Urban Shield Oakland, drawing police-military units from across the country and all over the world — including Israel, Bahrain, Brazil, and Norway.
Why Are Buddhists Confronting It?
We believe that the militarization of police is a systemic manifestation of hatred, one of the three poisons identified in Buddhist teachings on greed, hatred, and delusion. The three poisons arise not only in us as individuals, but in our social structures and institutions.
We vow to compassionately confront systemic hatred with collective forms of love, based in understandings of our interdependence with all beings targeted by racism and police terror.
That’s why we called on the Marriott Hotel to evict Urban Shield — holding a blockade for nearly 2 hours to drive the point home.
Outspoken Silence, Militant Mindfulness
While the majority of the world’s Buddhists do not hold silent meditation as a central part of their spiritual practice, many of us at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship have long been dreaming of ways to combine meditation with nonviolent direct action — offering a fresh perspective on what both mindfulness and militancy can look like. And while the majority of action participants remained silent (unless flyering and talking with passersby), the chanting and drumming of Buddhist monastics at the blockade imbued the action with a deep and special form of strength.
We are inspired and heartened by the work of other spiritual groups practicing direct action to oppose systemic racism, police violence, militarization, and surveillance.
May all beings be safe, happy, and free from harm.
Images by Joshua Stephens, Joshua Eaton, Kelly Lockwood, and Jack Downey.