Congress Wants to Improve Preemption of Domestic Extremism
WASHINGTON — The nation’s frustration with domestic terrorism was evident at a congressional hearing Tuesday as lawmakers sought answers to a problem as persistent as violence.
The immediate question at the House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing was how to improve grant programs for local communities to manage violent threats.
The longer-range issue was when the violence ends as the number of mass casualty incidents propelled by extremists only gets worse.
“Many, many attacks have devastated our communities across the country,” said Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Management and Accountability.
A primary tool for local communities has been the Department of Homeland Security’s Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program. It consists of a broad range of projects to equip local communities with the ability to prevent targeted violence and acts of terrorism.
The DHS defines targeted violence as intentional acts by extremists against targets that offer the perpetrators an opportunity to intimidate or coerce an adversary or to generate publicity about a grievance.
The DHS disseminates $20 million in TVTP grants to local communities under a two-year cycle. The two-year cycle is up for renewal, which prompted the subcommittee’s hearing Tuesday.
Subcommittee members said they wanted to keep their strategy of allowing local communities to decide how to use the grant money but to make the TVTP program more effective.
“Simply spending more taxpayer dollars will not fix the problem,” said Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich.
In general, programs that receive the grant money focus on assessing risks of violence, enhancing local prevention of extremism and monitoring online threats.
Paul Kim, a deputy district attorney for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, talked about the Los Angeles area’s 2nd Call program, which has provided one of the models for the intervention Congress seeks.
It is a community-based organization that seeks to reduce violence by helping high-risk persons, most commonly ex-convicts and parolees. Its staff assists with job readiness and counseling on anger management, parenting and prevention of domestic violence.
“One of the things we know is that hate is not innate,” Kim said.
Kurt Braddock, an assistant professor of public communication at American University, used his grant to study extremism and strategies for confronting it. He is compiling the information for communities that want to figure out their own approach.
“We’ve developed reading lists for people so they can look at this information,” Braddock said.
He said the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States inspired him to understand “why people could engage in such evil.”
Chris Kelenske, commander of the Michigan State Police, said his agency is using grants to identify persons on a path toward violence and help them with alternatives “to hopefully stop these incidents before they occur.”
Witnesses described their ideas for reducing violence after another weekend of extremism and shootings.
In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 31 members of the neo-Nazi group Patriot Front were arrested Saturday and charged with conspiracy to riot at a gay pride event. The arrests coincide with what law enforcement agencies say is a rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric nationwide.
In Chicago, Illinois, police reported 31 people shot over the weekend, six of them fatally, in unrelated incidents.
The subcommittee met only hours after the funeral of 10-year-old Xavier James Lopez, one of the 21 victims of the May 24, Uvalde, Texas, elementary school massacre by a teenage gunman, who was killed by police.
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