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LA officials torn over whether to take 'anti-terrorism' money from Trump administration

Opponents of the
Opponents of the "Countering Violent Extremism" grant program from the Department of Homeland Security urge the Los Angeles City Council to vote against accepting the funds.
Josie Huang/KPCC

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Los Angeles officials can't decide whether to accept a $425,000 grant from the Trump administration that’s intended to deter terrorist recruitment.

Civil liberties groups argue that the "Countering Violent Extremism" program run by the Department of Homeland Security monitors and stigmatizes Muslims. 

But Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to accept the funds, which his office said would go into community outreach to rein in violence among different groups, including white supremacists.

A planned vote at Tuesday's City Council meeting was tabled by President Herb Wesson after several dozen opponents showed up with signs that read "CVE is Islamaphobia" and "CVE criminalizes black and brown youth." Councilman Mike Bonin also urged his colleagues to reject the funds.

Bonin tweet

Wesson referred the issue back to the council’s committee on public safety to work on a solution amenable to all. 

The grant, issued for fiscal year 2017, has been sitting in limbo for months. Joumana Silyan-Saba of the Mayor's Office of Public Safety told the council Tuesday that refusing the grant "will leave a vacuum for law-enforcement solutions only."

"Moreover," Silyan-Saba said, "giving back this money will put the money back in the U.S. Treasury, which will essentially leave it open for this administration to do as they please with it."

Bonin said the council needed to consider the timing of accepting the grant, pointing out that earlier in the week, the Supreme Court upheld a travel ban affecting mostly Muslim-majority countries.

“I don’t think we can form a partnership with the Trump administration on terrorism when they are very clearly determined to racially profile in this country," Bonin said.  

The scheduled vote comes days after civil liberties groups, including the ACLU of Southern California and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, sued the city for failing to meet all of their requests for information about the "CVE" grant.

Laboni Hoq, litigation director of AAAJ-LA, said the postponed vote was a "very good outcome."

"We're going to mobilize like we did today, do our homework and be able to dispel a lot of what we've heard from the mayor's office," Hoq said.

The council's public safety committee will take up the issue at an undetermined date at least a month out, as the council goes into summer recess on Friday until July 27.  

Josie Huang covers religion, international affairs and the Southern California diaspora under a grant from the Luce Foundation.