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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Abolitionist Organizers Warn ‘Counter-Extremism’ Will not Cease White Supremacist Violence

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This text was funded by the Marvel Cooke Fellowship. Learn extra about this reporting venture and make a contribution to fund our fellowship funds.

In Could, a gunman killed ten Black folks at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and livestreamed the occasion on Twitch. Whereas that by itself was horrific, many had been additional disturbed upon studying that the shooter’s manifesto made references to memes and on-line platforms the place he spent most of his time. It didn’t take lengthy for public figures to demand legislation enforcement goal the net pipeline that “radicalized” him. 

It might seem to be a win for officers to examine Twitch, 4chan, Discord, and related platforms. However this method—spying on folks on-line in seek for ‘pathways to radicalization’—attracts from counter-extremism logics constructed on the continuing surveillance of oppressed communities worldwide. Amidst rising right-wing mass shootings in the USA, elevated funding of counter-extremism, supposedly on this case to stop white supremacist violence, represents a double-edged sword for communities of shade who’re most frequently the goal of those packages. 

Counter-extremism is shaping the response to mass shootings just like the one in Buffalo. Los Angeles, for instance, authorised a $250,000 grant to town’s police earlier this yr, supplied by the Division of Homeland Safety’s Focused Violence and Terrorism Prevention program. The grant will assist fund the Offering Options to Hinder Extremism (PATHE) program, an intervention-based program claiming to assist the Los Angeles Police Division (LAPD) establish people on pathways to extremism. 

PATHE is touted by media and police as an efficatious technique to fight so-called “home terrorism.” But the Cease LAPD Spying Coalition, a community-driven abolitionist group, condemns it as a “car for LAPD to racially profile youth of shade with pseudoscientific ‘danger assessments.’”

In Los Angeles, Cease LAPD Spying, alongside organizations like Vigilant Love, the Palestinian Youth Motion, and others, have led the cost towards the LAPD’s counter-extremism programming for years. 

Cease LAPD Spying informed Shadowproof by electronic mail that, in 2018, organizers blocked a $425,000 grant to broaden town’s precursor to PATHE. Nevertheless, metropolis councilors and police “ignored the desires of Angelenos” three years later, Cease LAPD Spying mentioned, “so as to prioritize the funds of the LAPD over the well-being of our youth.” PATHE’s growth finally got here to fruition in 2021 on the tail finish of one other betrayal, this time on the nationwide degree. 

In June of that yr, President Joe Biden not solely deserted marketing campaign guarantees to finish the Trump administration’s Focused Violence and Terrorism Prevention program (TVTP)—a resurrection of the Obama-era Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)—however successfully recreated TVTP with the brand new Middle for Prevention Applications and Partnerships (CP3). 

Immediately, TVTP lives on as a grant program managed by CP3 and is described because the “solely federal grant program devoted to enhancing the capabilities of native communities to stop focused violence and terrorism.” CP3 distributed $20 million in grants nationwide by TVTP in 2021, together with the $250,000 grant for PATHE in Los Angeles. 

Organizers like these working with Cease LAPD Spying are urging abolitionists nationwide to explicitly take up and confront the ever-expanding surveillance state. 

Abolition Past Police Shootings

Abolition was shoved into well-liked consciousness following the protest summer time of 2020. Nevertheless, media protection typically hyper-focuses on police killings, failing to make vital connections because the U.S. pours thousands and thousands into harmful counter-extremism programming. 

“Surveillance isn’t dangerous merely as a result of it’s utilized by police,” Cease LAPD Spying wrote. “Intent to hurt is a vital a part of surveillance and [it] precedes the creation of the police as a definite establishment in North America.”

Within the U.S., surveillance has taken completely different varieties at completely different occasions, from the early growth of biometric identification with slave passes to lantern legal guidelines demanding Black, mixed-race, and Indigenous folks carry lanterns after sundown if not accompanied by a white particular person. Regardless of the way it presents itself, although, surveillance is essentially “real-time social management” facilitated by a variety of organizations. 

By way of counter-extremism, the U.S. authorities makes use of debunked “radicalization” theories to focus on Muslims — and sometimes Black Muslim youth — and communities of shade with elevated policing and surveillance. Exported by the UK’s Stop, counter-extremism methods like CVE borrow the underlying assumption that there’s an identifiable pathway to “extremism” requiring early intervention by not solely watching communities however selectively funding non-profit programming, universities, and extra. Cease LAPD Spying writes that the federal authorities makes use of counter-extremism to “export policing and surveillance to social staff, academics, clergy, group members, and nonprofits.”

For instance, TVTP doesn’t restrict its funding to legislation enforcement alone. Vigilant Love’s #ServicesNotSurveillance marketing campaign highlights counter-extremism’s encroachment into “remedy, social work, college counseling, and different associated areas.” Cultural productions have been focused as effectively: in 2021, DHS supplied $750,000 to the College of Texas at El Paso and $400,000 to Music in Frequent’s Black Legacy Undertaking. Surveillance shouldn’t be essentially about limiting solely the actions and actions of focused communities, however their ideas, too. 

Whereas counter-extremism packages like PATHE masquerade as supportive interventions into communities, Cease LAPD Spying warned “they drastically broaden the ability of the police state, which is the first agent of white supremacy and violence in our lives.” 

As a home growth of the so-called Struggle on Terror, counter-extremism programming is a part of a “international surveillance infrastructure,” Darakashan Raja, the founding director of Muslims for Simply Futures, informed Shadowproof by electronic mail. That infrastructure “create[s] a world confinement zone the place people can’t really be free anyplace they go if they’re flagged as a terrorist or potential terrorist.”

Counter extremism and surveillance. Illustration by Paul Lacombe.

Framing The Drawback As “Home Terrorism”

DHS claims CP3 will fight “home violence extremism, together with violent white supremacy.” CP3’s formation got here alongside the event of a Home Terrorism Department inside the Workplace of Intelligence and Evaluation. Whereas the federal government focusing on white supremacy might seem to be a optimistic growth, it raises severe questions concerning the framing of the issue. If the main target is on “violent” white supremacy, for instance, what’s non-violent or non-extremism white supremacy, and what’s being carried out about it? There are vital causes to doubt {that a} “home terrorism” framework can confront the issue of white supremacy. 

As Nicole Nguyen and Yazan Zahzah famous in a latest report and toolkit, “Specializing in individualized acts of white supremacist violence whereas failing to reply to structural inequalities that hurt communities of shade actively contributes to the copy of white supremacy.”

To place it one other method, counter-extremism’s frameworks discount of white supremacy to the deeds of some particular person unhealthy actors permits the federal goverment to disregard that “the DHS and the FBI […] have at all times been intrinsically white supremacist establishments, from the histories of COINTELPRO to the Struggle on Terror,” Cease LAPD Spying wrote. 

”As well as,” Raja warned, “historical past has taught us that the state’s counterterrorism and nationwide safety infrastructure has at all times been weaponized towards Black, Brown, Indigenous communities, and liberatory actions.” 

That a lot is well discovered inside the Biden administration’s tips for combating “home violent extremism” launched after the Jan. 6 Capitol revolt. Whereas the rules by no means point out white supremacy explicitly, “advocating for the prevalence of the white race” is listed below the Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists class. It’s harking back to the FBI’s adoption of the “Black Identification Extremists” class in 2019, which Cease LAPD Spying argues “paves the way in which for the administration to equate protesters rising up towards the police with Neo-Nazis.”

Abolishing Surveillance

Demanding the abolition of counter-extremism methods looks like a frightening job particularly because the federal authorities continues to muddy this system’s lineages by restructuring it, and as occasions like mass shootings create demand for additional funding in them. Organizers are making it simpler for folks to hop onboard with an abolitionist method, although. 

Final yr, Raja led the event of the Muslim Abolitionist Futures grassroots coverage agenda calling for the abolition of the Struggle on Terror and demanding investments in care infrastructure as a substitute. The venture collected oral histories from group organizers, activists, and others, “who led, organized, and took part in social actions to withstand the Struggle on Terror.”

“The agenda introduced collectively Muslim-led abolitionist teams so as to construct a collective agenda in order that we might use it as a motion and advocacy device,” Raja defined. “It’s straightforward to dismiss one particular person or one group, however after we can again up our calls for with folks energy and the endorsement of a number of teams, it’s tougher to disregard us.”

For each Raja and Cease LAPD Spying, rejecting the false guarantees of reform is central to their work as abolitionists. “We don’t measure out victories in reformist wins, which regularly sacrifice communities for the sake of expediency,” Cease LAPD Spying wrote. “Moderately, our aim is to construct group energy and well-liked information and construct a tradition of resistance.” This will appear like working immediately with group members who’ve been harmed by the state somewhat than prioritizing the views of teachers, attorneys, and different professionals, who lack these ties to the group. 

In relation to policing, surveillance is usually introduced as a reform choice and isn’t acknowledged as dangerous and integral to the structure of policing. As Raja wrote, “One of many largest tendencies I’ve seen inside felony justice reform actions is the push for options to incarceration that locations folks below state surveillance by parole and probation.” The Neighborhood Justice Change, for instance, highlights that extra immigrants are enrolled in ICE’s Intensive Supervision Look Program (certainly one of its Options to Detention packages) than are detained in immigration services. 

“Not A Second In Time However A Continuation Of Historical past.”

An evaluation of the event of counter-extremism programming within the U.S. illuminates the significance of extra advanced confrontations with policing. Whereas it’s actually obligatory to focus on the $100 billion cities collectively pour into policing every year usually, CP3 distributed $20 million in grants final yr alone. Its predecessor, CVE, supplied $10 million in grants in 2017. Neither of these numbers account for the funding required to run and home these packages. 

Even when police are abolished, the fixed evolution of counter-extremism packages reveals that, with no direct abolitionist confrontation, surveillance will discover a technique to survive. The billions of funding presently directed to legislation enforcement establishments will seemingly discover itself funneled into counter-extremism packages at metropolis, state, and federal ranges. 

Confronting surveillance, Raja wrote, “permits for us to take a transnational method to abolition.” Whereas the worldwide counter-extremism business is one small vein of surveillance as an entire, it’s maybe among the many least understood. However it’s a excellent illustration of Cease LAPD Spying’s motto: “Not a second in time however a continuation of historical past.” The motto not solely frames Cease LAPD Spying’s work as a part of an extended battle however helps to “desensationalize the newest outrageous surveillance know-how and floor abolition in decolonization.”

“Understanding our struggle as a part of a world anti-imperialist battle has led to our collaboration with orgs like Anakbayan LA and the Palestinian Youth Motion,” Cease LAPD Spying wrote. “The battle for abolition is one with the battle towards the US struggle machine.”

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