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The new military urbanism, with fancy (Islamophobic) gear

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There have been at least two Special Operations military training exercises in major metropolitan areas in the United States over the past year alone, in Boston and Los Angeles. Police in the US are becoming increasingly militarized, deploying SWAT raids regularly — by one estimate tens of thousands per year nationwide.

This shift in policing has spawned or further enriched a variety of immensely profitable industries. In a blurring between the domestic and foreign wars (whether they be wars on drugs or terrorism), police departments and the military are increasingly working together and acting more like the other. More often than not, the Islamophobic rhetoric of the "war on terror" is folded into this training. 

The Urban Warfare Center — yikes

The Urban Warfare Center (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED) is a police and military training center in Utah that was founded after 9/11 and has since profited substantially off of renewed militarization of policing in the United States.

The center offers a number of different classes on topics ranging from surviving torture to effectively dominating an unarmed "combatant." Among them is the "Urban Combat" three day course, which is open to "Military and Police agencies only (no civilians unless you are vetted by state department as a contractor)," says the company.

Another course, called "Executive Traveling High Risk Areas," is open to civilians pending a background check. Presumably Occupy Wall Street activists would not be welcome. But Wall Street executives are; indeed, the one percent appears to be the target audience for the training sessions.

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Another course, offered to military, police, and civilians the company decides are worthy (could Muslims sign up?), teaches how to handle a big rifle in close quarters. Perfect for police who want to get involved in those increasingly commonplace, over-the-top SWAT raids to serve warrants and other everyday police activity! 

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Other classes, such as the "Military Combatives" course, are only open to military and police. All of the people in the photographs depicting the latter course on the company's website are wearing military fatigues…even though we can safely assume that a number of the people taking the course are police officers, not military. 

"Military Combatives" offers hand to hand combat tips, as well as something ominously called "Surprise-speed-violence of action." It also teaches police and military how to deal with so-called "unarmed combatives," whatever that means.

If you take a look at the page on their website advertising this course, you'll get a sense of just who the military and police action is meant to dominate. (Hint: Arabs and Muslims, or other kuffeiyeh-wearing people.)

But that's not all the anti-Muslim imagery. Take a look at the INFIDELS gear section. Who does it look like they are training to fight?

Even though the website offers a number of less than subtle dog-whistles invoking the Islamophobic "war on terror" mindset, the shift in training operations from those guided by domestic policing norms to fantasies of urban military control should be of interest not only to Arabs and Muslims.

As Stephen Graham points out in his book "Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism," the US military is also concerned about cities as a site for dissent. 

"Cities…are the places where radical ideas ferment, dissenters find allies and disconnected groups find media attention." — US Marine Corps.

Occupy, take note.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.