Two Minneapolis groups get federal funding to fight radicalization

The Countering Violent Extremism program allocated $10 million to 26 groups across the nation.

Maraya King

Two Minnesota groups are receiving more than $700,000 in federal funds to fight radicalization with community efforts that have left many divided.

Heartland Democracy and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office were part of 26 community outreach programs and law enforcement organizations chosen to get money from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to combat terrorism recruitment in their neighborhoods.

The money comes from the controversial Countering Violent Extremism program, a federal effort which “aims to address the root causes of violent extremism by providing resources to communities to build and sustain local prevention efforts,” according to the DHS website.

The CVE program has faced criticism in the past from the Cedar Riverside community for pushing negative stigma and profiling.

Mary McKinley, executive director of Heartland Democracy, said proposals were submitted during the Obama administration and the programs had expected to hear back October 2016.

However, the awardees did not hear until January and were again put on hold as the Trump administration was implemented, McKinley said.

Heartland Democracy was awarded $165,435 in January but received $423,340 after DHS revised its allocations.

With the added funding, McKinley said the organization hopes to expand efforts to more schools and reach more youth.

“We do not have a strict curriculum,” McKinley said. “We explore topics not generally discussed in educational environments such as self-identity and violence.”

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, which received $347,600, could not be reached for comment.

While a grant of this magnitude is rare, some organizations had a different reaction.

According to the Star Tribune, Ka Joog, one of the original January recipients, rejected its nearly $500,000 of federal funding. The group said Trump was furthering stigma against immigrant communities.

In September 2016, 200 people marched in protest against Islamophobia and called on officials to end CVE.

Dave Alderson, program development officer for Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood Revitalization Program, said in an email that he understood Ka Joog’s point of view and agreed that money given to an entirely Somali community can be seen as profiling and assuming their youth are more susceptible to violence than others.

But funds, regardless of their intention, can also improve the neighborhood with much needed youth programs, Alderson said in the email.

David Lapan, DHS’s press secretary, said all the recipients were reviewed again under new criteria earlier this year at the request of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

The new criteria centers on organizations’ history of prior efforts to implement prevention programs targeting violent extremism and their abilities to connect with law enforcement, said DHS Spokesperson, Lucy Martinez in an email.

Contracts are expected to be signed this summer, and funds disbursed shortly after.