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These Teens Are Making Their Voices Heard Against the Countering Violent Extremism Program

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Imagine going to school, or a club or program when your classes are done for the day. Sure, your behavior is being watched by teachers and program leaders — but imagine if some of them were also asked to report any supposedly suspicious behavior to the police.

For some of those impacted by a government program called Countering Violent Extremism, this is not imagination, it’s real life. CVE is a government program started by the Obama administration in 2014, that builds initiatives meant to prevent radicalization with regard to terrorism, and does so by building partnerships with organizations, programs, and faith leaders, while funding, monitoring, and collecting information on these endeavors. And yes, youths are affected by this, too. In Minneapolis in particular, where CVE’s main target is the Somali community, which is comprised largely of refugees who are black and Muslim, one partner of the program is Minneapolis Public Schools.

However, as a recent report from the NYU School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice claims, CVE programs are “built on two shaky premises”:

The first is that extremist ideology is a precursor to, and driver of, terrorism. While this proposition has some intuitive appeal, it has been disproven by decades of empirical research. Many people hold views that can be described as “extreme and never act violently; the reverse is also true. The second premise is that there is a predictable path toward terrorism with clear markers that can be used to identify potential terrorists. This notion has also been repeatedly debunked by empirical research.

This program is also accused by many groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), of targeting Muslims in particular. “Observers note that CVE is generally driven by news events, that the current program exclusively targets American Muslims and find that claims that the government is targeting all forms of violent extremism are inconsistently supported,” CAIR writes on its website. “There are arguments that the current CVE initiative undermines our national ideals, such as government not having a role in the free exercise of religion.” And as the Brennan Center for Justice report points out, “teachers and psychologists have sounded the alarm about CVE. The nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers objected strongly to an FBI CVE program, describing it as ‘ideological profiling and surveillance’ that would have ‘a chilling effect on our schools and immigrant communities, jeopardizing children’s sense of safety and well-being and threatening the security and sense of trust of entire communities.’” Teen Vogue reached out to the Department of Justice for comment regarding these allegations.

CVE follows a legacy of counter-terrorism programs and policy, including the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (or NSEERS), which was a program created in 2002 by the Bush Administration and officially axed by President Obama during his final days in office that was meant to prevent terrorist attacks by tracking male immigrants from 25 mainly Muslim-majority countries. And consider that CVE resembles former FBI programs like COINTELPRO, which is a domestic counterintelligence program that lasted from 1956 to 1971 and initially started to “disrupt the activities of the Communist Party of the United States,” according to the FBI’s website.

Community members, like youth organizer Ayaan Dahir, believe CVE not only engages in profiling, but that they are also dehumanizing. And, according to a secret FBI report, as The Intercept reported out in 2016, “It can be difficult, if not impossible, to predict for any given individual what factor or combination of factors will prompt that individual’s radicalization or mobilization to violence.”

In Minnesota, a nonprofit organization named Youthprise is in charge of managing and redistributing CVE money through grants. However, in February of this year, Youthprise was the target of protesters challenging the organization’s participation in CVE. When asked about this, Youthprise told Teen Vogue: “We are committing to continued investment in the Somali community. We are committing to working with Somali youth to make decisions about what these investments should look like. We are committing to helping dismantle Islamophobia and to supporting Somali youth. We are committing to seeking funds aligned with our values rooted in positive youth development. We are committing to not seeking funding that is tied to deficit-driven anti-radicalization purposes.”

In the Twin Cities, it is Somali youth who are making noise against CVE. Two youth groups doing this work include the Young Muslim Collective and the Anti-CVE Campaign. Young Muslim Collective, started in February of 2016, is a coalition of students from the Twin Cities area, and was started to create change and address the struggles of marginalized Muslims in Minnesota. They have done this by hosting community events about CVE, organizing actions around CVE and Islamophobia, and hosting vigils for victims of Islamophobia.

Meanwhile, the Anti-CVE Campaign is an initiative started in June 2016 predominantly by Minneapolis-area high school students. They, too, have organized protests around CVE, and taught workshops about the policy and Islamophobia around the Twin Cities. Both of these groups, are majority black, entirely Muslim, and all youth.

Most recently, in June, Young Muslim Collective hosted a vigil in honor of Nabra Hassanen, Philando Castile, Charleena Lyles, and the victims of the Finsbury Park attack and Grenfell Tower fire. In addition to organizing panels and protests, they also celebrate the beauty in being young, black, and Muslim by hosting Iftars (the meal that breaks fast at sundown during the holy month of Ramadan), classes, and hosting events to dissect all the ways race and faith intersect.

“[CVE] directly affects my community, because of the pilot programs that were brought into my community and into the nonprofits that directly affect my community,” Anti-CVE Campaign leader Mahamed Salad, a rising senior at Minneapolis South High, tells Teen Vogue. “Systematic Islamophobia or oppression has affected me my whole life, in regards to just me day to day being questioned and being asked like why I am in America or why I am doing the things I do.” He adds that obstacles are ever-present in his organizing — “as a Muslim, for sure, and as an immigrant, those two things definitely affect me,” he says.

“Because of my age, people kind of look at youth and say, oh these kids only care about the latest iPhone, or sports, and things like that, and sometimes it’s true. But they don’t see that we also have intellect and insight, and bright ideas and bright minds … and that we are just as much a part of this community as anyone else,” he adds.

Ayaan Dahir of Young Muslim Collective, tells Teen Vogue that the best advice she would offer young people wanting to make a difference in their community is to educate themselves about the problem first. “I know when you first really understand an issue and you start uncovering something that is not obvious, there is an overwhelming urge to move and act. But your action needs to be coupled with education. You can’t undo a system you don’t understand,” Ayaan says. “Read, read, and read again. Be critical of everything you read and let your personal experience inform your education. And then act. There is no blueprint, no how-to guide, or GPS on what you should do in your exact moment. The only way to learn what works is to learn what doesn’t.”

Don’t fear taking missteps, Ayaan adds: “If you’re a human being, you are 100% likely to be wrong on something. It is up to you to choose how you will apply your knowledge to the movement and what role you want to take on.”

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The Democratic Party candidates for Senate : ‘Landlord legislator’ faces 2 challenges – Kayse Jama and Shemia Fagan

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The Democratic Party candidates for Senate District 24 visited Rockwood to discuss the issues facing their constituents and answer audience questions ahead of the May 15 primary.

Incumbent Sen. Rod Monroe was joined by his two primary challengers Kayse Jama and Shemia Fagan. The event was hosted by the Multnomah County Democrats on Wednesday night, Jan. 17, at the Rosewood Initiative, 16126 S.E. Stark St. The candidates spoke before an engaged crowd of about 60 voters, who clapped and cheered throughout the evening.

District 24 encompasses east Portland, including parts of the Centennial neighborhood, and north Clackamas County.

Monroe is a retired teacher and co-chairman of the Ways and Means Education subcommittee. His top priority is to stop teacher layoffs, reduce class sizes and improve nutrition options for students. He also is working to improve transportation safety and efficiency, and keep drivers under the influence off the roads. Monroe, who first claimed a seat in the Legislature more than 40 years ago, has championed health and safety regulations.

Jama is a community-based leader who was born in Somalia. As an immigrant to the United States, he wants to support those in achieving the “American Dream.” He is an advocate for those experiencing poverty, displaced workers, women, people of color, native people, immigrants and refugees, the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities. One of his main focuses is bringing more diversity into positions of power within the community.

Fagan is a former representative who served two terms in the Oregon House before stepping down last year to focus on her family and career as an employment lawyer. She also has served on the David Douglas School Board. Fagan has worked on sidewalk and safety improvements for East Portland streets and tenant protection legislation. Her two main goals are securing more affordable housing and protecting people’s access to healthcare.

Audience questions

The main portion of the debate consisted of the candidates addressing questions from the people who came to hear them:

How does taking financial support affect campaigns?

Jama: We need to remove money from our politics if we want a true democracy.

Monroe: I have voted for every attempt at campaign reform. I have never traded my vote for anything — ever. There are no strings attached to any dollars given to my campaign.

Fagan: Democracies function on principals of accountability. Working people and parents can’t spend half their time raising money.

What are your plans for public transit?

Monroe: We need North-South bus routes in the outer Portland area. TriMet has assured me they will put those routes in place with the funding they have received.

Fagan: Public transit is an incredible opportunity. Bigger freeways don’t solve traffic problems, so being smart and not passing the cost along to the people we are trying to help is critical.”

Jama: Transit has to be accessible and affordable for all people. It’s time for corporations to pay their fair share. One thing proposed is tolls, but that means someone displaced from Portland will now have to pay to use the roads to get to work.

How do you plan to support kids in poverty?

Jama: 60,000 kids are homeless in this state. We have to work hard to support the families struggling to pay their services and find housing.

Monroe: I have been responsible for childhood and women’s rights programs. I was the author of three major nutrition programs, because these kids get their nutrition from our schools.

Fagan: Small class sizes and after-school programs are when teachers can see when kids need more support. We also have to better fund summer programs, because that is when children in poverty fall further behind.

How would you deal with addiction treatment?

Fagan: This is a crisis in our state, and when I was in the legislature we passed the good Samaritan law so someone can stay and help a person going through an overdoes without facing charges.

Jama: We need to treat addiction as a public health issue. It’s not a criminal charge, and we need to stop treating it as one.

Monroe: Mental health addiction on opioids is a national problem, not just an Oregon one. We need more mental health facilities.

How will you engage with diversity?

Jama: This is an easy one for me. I have brought diverse communities of immigrants and people of color together to build a strong movement.

Monroe: Our neighborhoods are becoming more diverse, which I think is a great thing.

Fagan: Even the strongest among us is no replacement for proportional representation for people of color.

Why are you running?

Monroe: I am running because of experience, which makes a difference. I have a history of working across the aisle to get things done.

Fagan: Too many of us are fighting for the stability of a normal life, and the senate has become a place where progressive ideas go to die. As a mother of two kids, I cannot wait another day for the senate to do better.

Jama: I remember trying to advocate in Salem and seeing how it is broken. I am mad as hell and want to make sure we build people’s power in this community.

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White men in bomb plot won’t get more Trump voters on jury, after judge denies request

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A judge on Wednesday said no to three Kansas residents who requested to have Trump voters on their jury as they’re tried for attempting to bomb a mosque and a Somali refugee community.

Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen were denied their request to include voters from a Trump-voting region in Kansas in their jury pool. The three men will be tried in the city of Wichita for plotting to use truck bombs in an apartment complex with a Somali refugee population and a mosque on the day after the 2016 presidential election, in Garden City, Kansas.

The jury pool will draw from Wichita and Hutchinson, more urban areas than Garden City, but Wright, Stein and Allen wanted people who “live in rural areas and are more politically conservative,” according to High Plains Public Radio.
They asked to draw from 28 counties in Dodge City, located in western Kansas. District Judge Eric Melgren said that their request did not have a legal basis, and they did not show that the current jury pool areas would discriminate against Republicans.

The men are charged with conspiracy against civil rights and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and they have pleaded not guilty. Their defense lawyers allege the men were exercising their free speech rights and right to bear arms.

The thinking behind the request, according to the lawyer, was that one area’s residents have different beliefs and would be able to understand the men’s motives. In one area, two-thirds of residents voted for Trump, and in the other area the men wanted to pool from, three-fourths of residents voted for the Republican, according to Mercury News.

The men were part of a group connected to the “Kansas Security Force,” a local militia group, prosecutors said. According to prosecutors and a wiretap transcript they obtained, Wright said he wanted the attack on Somalis in Kansas to “wake people up,” the publication added.

At the time, the government said that setting that precedent for the jury pool would “wreak havoc” and open a “dangerous door” to similar jury pool requests. The trial, which was scheduled to start in February, is set to begin on March 19 in Wichita, according to the Associated Press

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Columbus, Ohio

Judge set to sentence Ohio man who plotted US attacks

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COLUMBUS — A federal judge on Friday is scheduled to sentence an Ohio man who plotted to kill military members in the U.S. following a delay in the case when a previous judge withdrew.

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who was born in Somalia but came to the U.S. as a child, was arrested in 2015 and pleaded guilty to plotting those attacks after becoming radicalized in Syria. The attacks were never carried out.

The government said Mohamud became a citizen to obtain a U.S. passport. He bought a ticket to Greece with a stop in Turkey, where he disembarked before going to Syria, prosecutors said in court documents. They said he never intended to go to Greece.

Prosecutors, who are seeking a 23-year sentence, said Mohamud wanted to travel to Texas and capture three or four soldiers and execute them. They said Mohamud, now 26, was trained in Syria and tried to cover up dangerous terrorist activity.

Mohamud and his lawyer, in asking for leniency, have said Mohamud had realized “the immoral and illegal nature of terrorist ideology” and abandoned any plans to engage in terrorism.

Mohamud’s attorney, Sam Shamansky, is asking Judge Michael Watson to consider the light sentence a federal judge in Minnesota handed down in 2016 to a Minnesota man.

In that case, Abdullahi Yusuf, just 20 at the time of sentencing, was convicted of conspiring to join the Islamic State in Syria. Yusuf, who cooperated with prosecutors and testified against others, was sentenced to time served in jail of 21 months, plus two decades of supervised release.

Mohamud was originally scheduled to be sentenced in August. Judge James Graham started that hearing, but in a surprise move, he announced he was delaying it to gather more information, including Mohamud’s current state of mind.

Graham also said he wanted information about possible treatment programs for Mohamud during and after prison.

Graham ordered a psychological evaluation of Mohamud and set a new sentencing date. But in December, Graham abruptly withdrew from the case without explanation.

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