“Relentless community vigilance, advocacy and opposition” Forces LA Mayor to Reject CVE Grant

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A coalition of community civil rights organizations in Los Angeles forced the Mayor to turn down a $450,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security for a controversial Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. Community education, grassroots organizing, public records requests, and lobbying demonstrated community resistance to the program forcing Mayor Eric Garcetti to announce on Tuesday that he was rejecting the grant.

Advocates declared victory, but recognize that CVE’s tentacles  have already spread through the city. “The Mayor’s Office’s decision to decline funding does not necessarily indicate that they reject CVE itself. And that is what we have been advocating all along: not only should the City reject CVE funding, but they should reject CVE altogether,” said Laboni Hoq, litigation director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA. “WE applaud the decision, but we remain vigilant.”

 

The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which helped to mobilize people, especially youth, to oppose the program said in an email, “While the CVE program has not been dismantled, this is an important step in starving the beast. The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition is honored to be partnering in the awesome organizing along with hundreds of community members and organizations including Palestinian Youth Movement, Immigrant Youth Coalition, Black Students Union, and Jewish Voices for Peace. Huge thanks to LA’s 33,000 teachers and United Teachers LA for their critical support. While we take a moment to appreciate and celebrate people power, we continue organizing with deeper resolve toward the abolition and dismantlement of these racist programs.”

While the supporters of CVE programs claim they provide needed social and mental health services for marginalized communities, civil rights and civil liberties groups point to the deep involvement of law enforcement, and the framework of the program which identifies community members as potential threats based on their religion and political views. “The CVE program indicts Muslims as potential threats to the homeland when they do nothing more than practice their religion or engage in political activism,” Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California told the City News Service in June. “The government’s focus on First Amendment-protected activities enables inappropriate monitoring and surveillance of local Muslim communities.”

“It is a shame that the federal government used the lure of federal funding for necessary social services program to advance its CVE program targeting Muslims,” Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR-LA said. “All other communities receive similar funding, but through social services departments, not counter terrorism ones.”

Many CVE proponents are now trying to frame the program as a useful tool to fight white supremacists and neo-nazis, exploiting concern about the violence and hate spewed by these groups to gain support for CVE among people who should know better. “In light of the tragedy in Charlottesville and events in other places,” Mayor Garcetti told a local paper, “it is especially important now that we do everything possible to work toward the day when none of our young people are at risk for falling under the sway of violent extremism.” But opponents reject this obviously false equivalency between Muslims and white supremacists, and reject the idea of ‘equal opportunity repression.’

Teachers Opposed to CVE

Although CVE is a relatively new program (launched in 2015 by the Obama Administration) it echos and expands on our government’s historic and continuing repression and criminalization of radicals and people of color, particularly youth. And because the program focuses on youth, often in the schools, teachers are getting more engaged in opposing it. In 2016, the American Federation of Teachers joined a letter opposed to the FBI’s Don’t Be a Puppet program, because “it promotes bigotry and hatred, and doubles-down on the problematic law enforcement strategy of profiling.”

In July, the United Teachers of Los Angeles published an open letter objecting to CVE and other programs that “require educators and students to be agents of profiling and surveillance in our schools.” The strongly worded letter points out that CVE is  “part of a much larger system of surveillance and data collection that criminalizes youth, silences critical thinking, dissuades their creative expression and political activity, and invades privacy.”



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