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21 Groups Oppose “Strong Cities” CVE Initiative in New York, Citing Civil Liberties Concerns

Expanding Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts in New York City would threaten civil liberties and inappropriately stigmatize and alienate Muslim communities, the Brennan Center argued in a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Published: September 21, 2015

The Bren­nan Center for Justice, along with 20 other New York-based human rights, civil liber­ties, and community-based organ­iz­a­tions, sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, express­ing concern over New York City’s parti­cip­a­tion in the newly intro­duced “Strong Cities” initi­at­ive, as part of broader efforts to insti­tute programs under the banner of “Coun­ter­ing Viol­ent Extrem­ism” in the United States. 

The “Strong Cities” initi­at­ive would create a global network of local govern­ments who have deployed CVE initi­at­ives in their respect­ive cities. Advoc­ates argue that further CVE efforts are misguided, as such programs, both in the U.S. and abroad, have been heav­ily criti­cized for stig­mat­iz­ing Muslim communit­ies and threat­en­ing consti­tu­tion­ally protec­ted freedoms. Such CVE efforts are aimed at identi­fy­ing “risk factors,” which often include common beha­vi­ors asso­ci­ated with reli­gious prac­tice and polit­ical activ­ism. Evid­ence suggests the new iter­a­tion of CVE program­ming, which focuses signi­fic­antly on youth and chil­dren, have broadened these “risk factors” to include beha­vi­ors common to an adoles­cent popu­la­tion, such as “person­al­ity changes” and “clashes over ideo­lo­gical differ­ences.” CVE programs have also been misused as a cover for surveil­lance and intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing oper­a­tions in the Amer­ican Muslim communit­ies they target.

Decades of empir­ical stud­ies show there are no beha­vi­oral or demo­graphic indic­at­ors that can be used to predict who will become a viol­ent extrem­ist. Given the demon­strated inef­fect­ive­ness and coun­ter­pro­ductiv­ity of CVE program­ming in other loca­tions, estab­lish­ing similar initi­at­ives within New York City would be a setback to Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to collab­or­ate with local stake­hold­ers on issues of discrim­in­at­ory poli­cing and surveil­lance impact­ing New York Muslims.

“Despite years of exper­i­ence with CVE program­ming in the U.S. and abroad, there is no evid­en­tiary basis for conclud­ing that these programs contrib­ute to redu­cing terror­ism, which is their stated goal,” the letter states. “The impact of target­ing Muslim communit­ies for special CVE meas­ures is to brand them as inher­ently suspi­cious and some­how less Amer­ican than other­s…Muslims are part of New York’s diverse fabric. They should be treated as full part­ners, not as prob­lems.”

Down­load the letter here (PDF)


092115 Coali­tion Letter to Mayor Re CVE/Strong Cities