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By Yasha Levine

I’m not going make you wade through three paragraphs of stuff to find out who won this year’s Urban Shield: it was the Israeli team. Oakland Police Department took second place, while San Francisco Police Department tied with FBI for third.

— Senior Editor Doug Wyllie on Urban Shield 2010

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.

Penn Arms: From Occupied Palestine to Downtown Oakland, You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

According to Oakland’s interim police chief, the whole thing was an unfortunate accident: “It’s unfortunate it happened. I wish that it didn’t happen. Our goal, obviously, isn’t to cause injury to anyone,” he told reporters the next day.

But the truth is that Olsen’s injury was not an accident nor a freak occurrence.

Even though Penn Arms launchers are supposed to be used for “riot suppression” and “other crowd control operations,” they have already gained a reputation for being effective as a deadly weapon, repeatedly causing “unfortunate accidents” wherever it’s used–especially when used against civilians at close range. This side benefit is something that Combined Systems Inc., which owns Penn Arms, doesn’t even try hiding. The company calls its launcher line “less lethal,” not “less than lethal”–and even owns the domain name, which takes you straight to its weapons and munitions catalogue. You have to wonder: Less lethal than what? An M-16? A shotgun? The .357 magnum I have sitting in my desk drawer? If it is, then not by much–not when used at close range, which security forces have a habit of doing.

Penn Arms launchers have been used with deadly results by repressive, authoritarian regimes all across the world. Most recently, the grenade launchers were part of the state arsenal in Egypt and Bahrain, where they were used both for launching tear gas, and as blunt force trauma weapons that maimed and killed peaceful protesters.

Israel in particular has a nasty record of employing Penn Arms tear gas grenade launchers for their “off label” use against Palestinian protesters. That is, as short range weapons that not only critically injure and kill, but provide the added PR benefit of plausible deniability after the unfortunate accident occurs.

That’s exactly what happened earlier this month, when an IDF solider shot Mustafa Tamimi in the face with a tear gas grenade at close range, crushing Tamimi’s skull and forcing a part of his brain out of a shattered eye socket. Tamimi was 28 and a resident of Nabi Saleh, a Palestianian town that has had its land and water taken over by a Jewish-only settlement. Penn Arms’ “less lethal” action was captured and documented in gruesome detail by journalists who were there on the scene:

This is what “less lethal” looks like

Israeli officials claimed that the whole thing was an accident, that the soldier “didn’t see” the Tamimi when he fired the shot. But people who’ve reported on Palestinian protests insist that this was no accident, but rather deliberate policy. According to Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf, who served in the IDF for four and a half years, this practice of shooting civilians with tear gas canisters at short range is standard IDF m.o.:

Israel Defense Forces officials have told Haaretz that Tamimi’s death was “an exceptional incident.” Still, as we have reported here in the past, firing tear gas canisters at protesters from close range (in violation of army orders) is a common practice in the West Bank. A couple of years ago, Palestinian protester Bassam Abu-Rahmeh of Bil’in died after getting hit in the chest by a tear gas canister [video]. A year later, his sister, Jawahar,collapsed from the effect of a tear gas and later died in a Ramallah hospital.

I have seen tear gas canisters shot directly at protesters (including myself) in several demonstrations in Bil’in, in Hebron and in Nabi Saleh.

Max Blumenthal, who has extensively reported on Palestinian protests and has had the IDF launch tear gas grenades at him personally, told me that the Israeli soldiers always fire tear gas shells like bullets at Palestinian kids. As he found out first hand, they even target American citizens who show up to support or report on the Palestinian cause. “An Israeli soldier shot California resident Tristan Anderson directly in the head with a high velocity tear gas canister in a March 2009 protest in Nilin, leaving Tristan partially handicapped and suffering slight cognitive damage. New York City college student Emily Henochowicz lost her left eye when an Israeli soldier shot her directly in the face with an aluminum tear gas canister at a May 2010 protest at the Qalandiya checkpoint,” according to Electronic Intifada.

Isn’t plausible deniability a wonderful thing?

Emily Henochowicz experiences Israeli crowd control tactics first hand…

And now we see the same deadly anti-protester grenade-launcher brandished in Berkeley, birthplace of the Free Speech Movement and much of the Vietnam anti-war movement.

The fact that Berkeley’s police department would even consider adopting the same deadly weapons and tactics for “crowd control” against the town’s own students and citizens that are being used by Israel against stateless Palestinians in the occupied territories, and by Egyptian and Bahraini security forces against pro-democracy demonstrators, is as alarming as it is appalling. But it should not come as surprise to anyone who’s read Max Blumenthal’s jaw-dropping investigative article exposing the Isrealification of America’s law enforcement. Published (and re-posted here on The eXiled) just a few weeks ago, it details the collaboration and close partnerships that have been emerged over the past decade between Israeli security forces and U.S. police departments in towns and counties all across the country.

To quote from Blumenthal‘s article:

In October, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Alameda 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 [Berkeley and Oakland are part of Alameda County –YL] 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.

The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.

To repeat: Berkeley cops were training alongside security forces from Israel, Bahrain, Jordan, Singapore, Qatar and  the United Arab Emirates right on the UC Berkeley campus, where I went to school, and just a few blocks away from the same Occupy Berkeley encampment that they would later test their new brutal skills on–all of it with support from corporations like AT&T, Sisco Systems, Chevron, FedEx, Marriott, Oracle and Prison Health Services, among others.

This is blowback of the worst kind. All that military-monetary support that went into propping up friendly totalitarian/apartheid countries by way of keeping their restive populations under control is now coming back home, with all the valuable lessons tested out in countries across the world now just starting to be applied here against the first rumblings of post-financial crisis dissent and discontent.

Berkeley and Oakland are not the only police departments that have benefitted from Urban Shield’s recent apartheid/authoritarian crowd control training. Below is a full list of participants from last year’s Urban Shield. Check to see if your local cops have been trained up, too. That way, you won’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself looking down the barrel of a grenade launcher at your local Occupy protest.

Alameda County
Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA)
Alameda County Emergency Medical Services
Alameda County Fire Department
Alameda County General Services Agency
Alameda County Health Care Services Agency
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Air Squadron
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Communications
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue-Unit
Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority
Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative
Belmont – San Carlos Fire Department
Berkeley Fire Department
Berkeley Police Department
Brisbane Police Department
Central County Fire Department
City of Alameda Fire Department
City and County of San Francisco
East Bay Regional Parks Police Department
Emeryville Fire Department
Emeryville Police Department
Fremont Fire Department
Fremont Police Department
Fort Bragg Fire & Emergency Services
Foster City Fire Department
Hayward Fire Department
Hayward Police Department
Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department
Livermore Police Department
Marin County Sheriff’s Office
Martinez Police Department
Mendocino Fire Protection District
Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Millbrae Fire Department
Newark Police Department
Northern California Regional Intelligence Center
Oakland Housing Authority
Oakland International Airport
Oakland Fire Department
Oakland Police Department
Oakland Unified School District
Palo Alto Fire Department
Pleasanton Police Department
Port Board of Commissioners
Port of Oakland
Presidio Fire Department
Redwood City Fire Department
Redwood City Police Department
Richmond Police Department
Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety
Sacramento Police Department
San Bruno Fire Department
San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department
San Francisco Department of Emergency Management
San Francisco Fire Department
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
San Francisco Police Department
San Jose Fire Department
San Jose Police Department
San Leandro Police Department
San Mateo County
San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office
San Mateo Emergency Services Detail
San Mateo Fire Department
Santa Clara County
Santa Clara County Fire Department
Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office
South San Francisco Fire Department
Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety
Union City Police Department
Woodland Fire Department
Woodside Fire Protection District
Cal-Explorer Search and Rescue
California Army National Guard, 95th Civil -Support Team (WMD)
California Disaster Medical Services Association
California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation
California Emergency Management Agency (Cal-EMA)
California Highway Patrol
California Rescue Dog Association
California State Sheriff’s Association (CSSA)
California National Guard
Commission on Peace Officer Standards and -Training (P.O.S.T.)
Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT)
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office
Los Angeles Police Department
NORCAL Ambulance
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Pulgas Water Temple
Sacramento Police Department
University of California-Berkeley
University of California-Berkeley Police Department
95th Civil Support Team, Weapons of Mass Destruction


Want to know more? Read Yasha Levine’s account of LAPD’s appalling treatment of detained Occupy LA protesters…His other Occupy LA coverage…And LA Weekly’s writeup of his arrest.

Yasha Levine is an editor of The eXiled. You can reach him at levine [at]



Add your own

  • 1. proletariat  |  December 26th, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    blah blah blah you know i’m just a moron provocateur who’s going to post something about shooting cops, but can’t even come up with a clever way to convince all you prissy little peacenik girls to get violent. So I’m actually going to recommend you shoot at cops with an AK. Hahahahah, losers! Bet you gonna take my advice…

    there is a weapon much more effective than this grenade launcher!

    it’s called an AK-47! occupy should give that a shot instead of drinking down more of the hemlock laced gandhi kool-aid

  • 2. proletariat  |  December 26th, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    d-doyeee! doyee! the almighty exiled censor would think huey newton was an agent provocateur. d-doyee! d-d-doyee! doyee! stuttering sockpuppet says what?

    i tremble to think what s/he would think of malcolm X, let alone lenin, ho chi minh or mao.

  • 3. Hick  |  December 26th, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    We Americans are not taught about the French Revolution and now – if we have the guts to not go bleating into the killing pens – we get to live it.

    Vive le’Resistance!

  • 4. Kyeshinka  |  December 27th, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Osama didn’t go far enough while he had the chance.

  • 5. row  |  December 27th, 2011 at 9:06 am

    i saw a cop with that grenade launcher when they raided occupySF…they had him hidden around the corner, blocked by a line of riot cops so no one could film him. we only went around the corner when we were arrested so no one could take had a camera handy…

  • 6. vortexgods  |  December 27th, 2011 at 9:27 am

    So… what do we do about it?

    I’m hoping that the answer is something other than continue to get shot in the face with high velocity projectiles.

  • 7. Census Louie  |  December 27th, 2011 at 10:55 am

    In stores now: Occupy Wall Street Lego set!

  • 8. Mac  |  December 27th, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Americans suck at “taking it to the streets” anyway, so there’s no chance in hell the OWS is going to amount to much.

  • 9. Mike C.  |  December 28th, 2011 at 3:13 am


    Go fuck yourself.

    That is all.

  • 10. proletariat  |  December 28th, 2011 at 3:47 am

    look at this shit, almighty exile censor. i have won yet again. bwahahahahahah! the people are clamoring for revolution, but you live in some ghanaian fantasy world where you just need to ask the state real nice and you’ll have freedom!

    unfortunately, i live in the real world of comment trolls, where all power comes from the barrel of a sockpuppet gun. join me. i know, deep down in your almighty heart, you know i’m right. thank you for not censoring TOO much so that your exalted readers can learn the truth.

    the time for gandhi’s racist policies are over. it’s half past time to start listening to malcolm and huey–look how successful they were, and you will too!–but i still think they would scare the OWS crackers shirtless. the exiled could help change that comment revolution paradigm, but you all seem too busy improving retardo trolls, not listening to ideas presented to you in good faith by gutless sockpuppet revolutionaries like me.

  • 11. Trevor  |  December 28th, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I’m impressed some others are pointing out the practical solution to this little problem.

    Not that it’ll happen. The only people with guns in America other than the officially sanctioned thugs are those histrionic fags in the NRA. You really think they have the balls to take on anyone who could fight back? Yep, ladies and gentlemen…when was the last time those NRA hicks stood up to authority? Never, they’ll either sit at home and take it like the little red state sissies that they are, or be joining up with the local oligarch-sponsored militia to fight those damn stinky commie bongo playing hippies.

  • 12. woundedduck  |  December 28th, 2011 at 9:20 am

    First off, that isn’t a grenade launcher, it’s that fat fuck cop’s dick, and he loves to play with it all the more because it’s usually kept under lock and key. Every cop I’ve ever known has been a gun loving racist who have the intellectual capacity of a toaster.

  • 13. Make Sure They Get the Point  |  December 28th, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    A burly Berkeley cop strutting around with a repeat-fire tear gas grenade launcher may indeed SEEM menacing, but if you were to RUSH HIM wielding a standard .59 cent BIC ball-point pen and stabbed him in the neck with it 3 or 4 times, that burly Berkeley cop and his fancy-schmancey grenade launcher would go down like a sack of potatoes.

  • 14. Make Sure They Get the Point  |  December 28th, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    ..and STAY down.

  • 15. Harry Callahan  |  December 28th, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    So shoot a few people. What’s the fuss?

  • 16. Anarchy Wolf  |  December 28th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    @13 & 14, if everybody in the crowd was armed with concealable knives, they easily could flow around the cops and just shank them all, they’d be bleeding out before they knew what happened.

  • 17. AMY ALKON  |  December 29th, 2011 at 8:31 am



  • 18. Hick  |  December 29th, 2011 at 3:28 pm


    Tim McVeigh.

  • 19. Cum  |  December 29th, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Lol, the Marin County cops participated? What, they think the suburbs are going to riot? While there are legitimate reasons why Marin City blacks should burn down the local Best Buy and San Rafael latinos should firebomb those gestapo police checkpoints, I don’t think either group wants to jeopardize their employment by the white folks with a riot. Maybe they’re worried about a San Quentin prison break? The only Occupy demonstrators I saw in the last few weeks while visiting Marin were the grandmas in front of my gramgram’s retirement home. Gotta watch out for those Mill Valley seniors!

  • 20. proletariat  |  December 29th, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    i see, almighty exiled comment censor. bedwetting comment monkeys like me can’t win. the people have spoken, and they have not spoken in favor of this bedwetter. as in, me. they want revolution. revolution is the language of the proletariat–which is why OWS rejects it. because what sort of revolution?

    i hope to see the exiled staff there when it happens. i have a few extra guy fawkes maks you can all borrow, if you want. but first you got to sanitize them, or you might pick up a nasty acne infection from me. just fyi.

    bedwetting violence monkey

  • 21. Robert Hodge  |  January 7th, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    This is how governments get people to stay in their place. Show just the right number of people getting the living shit kicked out of them by state thugs, but not too many! Too many and you’ll have a millions on the streets calling for your blood. Just the right amount of undesirables. If they aren’t undesirables paint them to be undesirables.

    All you statists remember this: if the Berkeley Police Dept was being run a private security corporation, he’d be waving a fresh tasty sandwich at the protester, not a tear gas bazooka. Cuz that’s how friendly the markets are!

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