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New Report Shows CVE Program Profiles Muslims and Arabs in IL

Photo: Larry Gindhart / AFSC

CHICAGO (March 18, 2019) A new report documents how the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Program is disproportionately targeting and criminalizing Muslim and Arab youth in Illinois. The report will be released to the public on March 20 at 5pm. The event will take place at UIC Arab American Cultural Center, Stevenson Hall 111, 701 S. Morgan Street in Chicago. The report can be downloaded here.

“The CVE approach to counter-terrorism assumes that radicalization is a predictable process, and that there are clear indicators that can be used to identify those at risk,” explains Mary Zerkel, program director for American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Chicago. “but there are no scientifically-proven indicators that a person may be radicalizing or vulnerable to violence. CVE uses these flawed indicators to criminalize constitutionally-protected speech, religious practices, and political activism, most often through indiscriminately profiling Muslim communities.”

The report was put together by the #StopCVE Coalition, and authored by Nicole Nguyen, assistant professor at University of Illinois-Chicago, and Debbie Southorn of AFSC. It documents how the Department of Homeland Security program operates in Illinois, where CVE is implemented through the state-wide Targeted Violence Prevention Program (TVPP).  TVPP is run by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), a state law enforcement agency, and funded by a $187,000 CVE grant from the Department of Homeland Security, and $208,206 in state funding. Much of the information in the report was obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The report also includes a set of recommendations, both for individuals and policy-makers. “CVE and TVPP programs are so insidious because they take things that are ostensibly good – community focus groups, bystander trainings, and workshops for mental health professionals – and use them as a way to profile and surveil Muslim communities,” says Debbie Southorn, AFSC program associate and report co-author. “That’s why we are calling for an immediate end to the TVPP program, demanding the University of Illinois end CVE research, and asking community institutions and organizations to refuse to work with CVE programs.”

The report release event will be co-moderated by #StopCVE organizers Nicole Nguyen, assistant professor at UIC, and Briana Hanny, assistant director of the UIC Department of African American Studies. They will be joined by speakers from the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), and Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC) in a conversation connecting CVE to other policing practices such as Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), the gang database, ICE surveillance, and social media surveillance in schools.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required at bit.ly/CVEReportRelease

The launch event is co-sponsored by: CAIR-Chicago, American Friends Service Committee--Chicago, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Arab American Action Network, Organized Communities Against Deportations, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Love & Protect, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, Chicago Teachers for Social Justice, Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine - DePaul

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.