OAKLAND -- It looks like a recipe for trouble, and Oakland police are preparing for the worst.
Friday marks the second anniversary of the eviction of Occupy Oakland campers from their downtown home and the ensuing street battles between police and protesters.
It's also the day that thousands of public safety officers from across the Bay Area -- and around the world -- will descend on downtown Oakland for the start of a three-day training exercise.
While Urban Shield 2013 is designed to prepare first responders to better handle terrorist attacks and natural disasters, critics say it's accelerating the militarization of local police departments -- a trend they think helps explain the violent police response to the Occupy protests two years ago.
Demonstrations are scheduled for outside the Oakland Marriott City Center Hotel Friday morning where about 100 vendors will market their weapons and equipment to law enforcement officials. In the evening, protesters plan to rally at nearby Frank Ogawa Plaza, the former home of Occupy Oakland, and dine on roasted pig to show their distaste for Oakland's police force.
Given Oakland's recent history of nighttime anti-police protests spawning small groups of vandals who wreak havoc on local businesses, police are assigning extra officers downtown, mandating overtime and alerting outside agencies that it might need mutual aid.
"We are aware of the different activities going on and we will be prepared appropriately for these activities," Sgt. Arturo Bautista said.
Even some of those organizing the daytime protests are fearful about what might happen Friday night. "I hope that nothing blows up on this, but my intuition is that it will because you can't control people when they're angry or they're mad or they're just evil," said the Rev. Daniel Buford of Allen Temple Baptist Church.
Urban Shield began in 2007 as the brainchild of Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, who leveraged federal anti-terrorism funding to create a program that brings together police, firefighters and paramedics from across the Bay Area for joint training on disasters and terrorist attacks. Training scenarios, held at sites across the Bay Area, have included a hostage-taking at UC Berkeley, a terrorist takeover of a passenger train, a school shooter and the bombing of an oil refinery by anarchists.
Outside agencies have also joined in the event, which has been copied by other metropolitan areas. Ahern said Boston officials have told him the training they received at Urban Shield helped them respond to this year's Boston Marathon bombing.
"I think it's the most positive program we have going on in our region," Ahern said. "I don't know why people would want to protest the fact that law enforcement and first responders are preparing for disasters in the Bay Area."
But opponents are troubled by many aspects of the event. They fear that some of the participating outside agencies, such as security forces from Israel, Bahrain and China, will use the SWAT team training against civilians rather than terrorists and advise local law enforcement agencies on how to handle perceived terrorist threats.
They also fear that vendors hawking everything from munitions used for policing protests to sophisticated computer equipment are marketing expensive and unnecessary military-grade equipment to local police forces as Washington pares down defense budgets.
And they're upset that the federal government is paying about $1.5 million to cover most of the event's costs, while money to fight poverty has dried up.
"They would rather spend millions to practice war games and buy military hardware than to help people," Buford said.
Ahern, who became a lightning rod on the issue of militarizing local police this year when he sought money to buy a drone, said Urban Shield was only about improving disaster preparedness and had nothing to do with policing demonstrations.
He said the prior inclusion of security officials from countries such as Bahrain, which has violently suppressed recent pro-democracy protests, offered police the chance to learn more about different cultures and respond to the needs of different communities.
And the tactical expertise provided during the training scenarios can help save lives in a disaster, Ahern said. "If the military can provide us with best practices from their experience and make our region more prepared, then I'm more than happy to utilize it."
There were no protesters at last year's Urban Shield vendor show which took place at the same hotel one day after the anniversary of the Occupy eviction.
Ahern said he wanted to schedule this year's event one week earlier when the moon was brightest for nighttime training, but the hotel didn't have enough vacancies.
The anniversary of the Occupy eviction last year was marked by peaceful marches. The network of community groups organizing Friday's protests said it doesn't want any violence and is encouraging participants to bring their children.
Asked why demonstrators are staging the evening rally given the risk that it might attract agitators, Noura Khouri said some member groups wanted to commemorate the removal of the Occupy encampment and subsequent protests.
"We hope not to have a repeat of what happened two years ago," she said. "But we're certainly not going to back down to the threat of police violence to deter us from exercising our constitutional rights."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.