AROC Youth Reflect on Militarization, Zionism and Repression
Interview with AYO youth leaders, Nora Abedelal and Nour Bouhassoun
What are your thoughts on this moment of ongoing attacks on Arabs and Muslims, targeting of Palestinian activism, and criminalization of Black and Brown communities in light of the Movement for Black Lives Platform, and the growing movement against Zionism?Nour: Oppressed people have always stood up for one another. That isn’t something new. The Movement For Black Lives platform illustrates that Black people are demanding their right to self-determination. This requires standing against all forms of oppression including the criminalization of Black and Brown youth, against surveillance, against war, and the attempts to control and militarize our communities.The platform is not just an expression of solidarity with Palestinians. It is more than that. It talks about the real connections between local and global struggles against State violence and recognizes that standing together to fight for economic, social and political power is how we can all achieve self-determination. Zionism is not oppressing one community; it oppresses all communities of color and poor people and helps the US to exercise repression locally and globally.Nora: While we are seeing a lot of communities showing solidarity with one another, we are also facing a lot of backlash with the rise of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and conservatism in general. We know all of this reflects standard US domestic and foreign policy. So with more solidarity actions comes an increase in policing, surveillance and militarism. That’s why I am not surprised when I learn about events like Urban Shield. These are the ways they try to crush people rising up and taking action.
How can we continue to build on the connections being made between local policing and global repression and continue to fight back?
Nora: We have to understand that when we are engaged in this kind of work, it is inherently in solidarity with other communities because we all suffer from the same systems of oppression; the same systems trying to repress and control us.
We should be investing back into our communities through education, leadership development, and skill building as opposed to body cameras and prettier prisons. I have been seeing a lot of posts on social media about police giving out ice cream and playing basketball with youth. When people see that as a way to solve the problem, then they don’t understand that these are systemic issues that need long term solutions, and require grassroots organizing.
Nour: People in this moment should know the difference between a tool and a strategy. Some of our youth are focusing too much on social media, which is a great tool, but not a strategy. It doesn’t bring people together on the ground. So what we need is to organize together. We should think of ways to engage in local efforts that weaken these systems and act as a model for the future.
There is a lot of attention on electoral politics now. Even though as we have witnessed for years, no matter who the president is, our conditions remain the same. I wish people would not see those in power as the problem solvers. Problem solvers are those most impacted.
How does stopping Urban Shield serve as a strategy for our movements and the health and well being of our communities?
Nour: Military tactics and training are used against an enemy. And when they train local police with these tactics they are training the police to treat our communities like enemies. When they purchase Israeli weapons and surveillance technology, and learn from Israeli military tactics, they are learning how to treat our communities here the same way the Israeli army oppresses Palestinians. Militarization creates a culture of fear and distrust and reinforces racism, encouraging informants and division in our community. Stopping Urban Shield is a way for our communities to demonstrate that we believe policing and militarization are not okay. If we can stop Urban Shield, we can encourage others to continue to challenge these systems in the face of repression.
Nora: I remember the police came to my house with an M16 rifle. And that is because events like Urban Shield normalize militarization. The police have historically made our communities uncomfortable and have historically repressed and targeted our communities. When I see police at protest with tanks and big guns I think of events like Urban Shield that allow these kinds of things to happen. Stopping Urban Shield would mean that instead of investing in militarization we would be able to invest in our communities. It also helps us take the focus away from individual gun violence, and instead remind people of the role that State violence plays in our everyday lives.
How do folks get involved?
Nora: Show up on September 9th in Pleasanton! Contact the Stop Urban Shield coalition for information on carpools from the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Nour: Organize meetings to learn more about Urban Shield and the ways that we can redirect funding towards community based solutions.
For more information on how you can take Nour and Nora’s lead on mobilizing to stop Urban Shield, visit www.stopurbanshield.org