New York City will join a Justice Department program aimed at rooting out terrorist recruiting efforts in cities, even though its tactics have raised concerns among some civil libertarians, the New York Times reports. The decision to join the program, the Strong Cities Network, had drawn scrutiny from American Muslim activists, the New York Civil Liberties Union and civil rights lawyers. More than a dozen groups urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconsider New York's participation, citing what they called an unfair focus on the activities of law-abiding American Muslims.
De Blasio decided to support the program at a United Nations forum yesterday, where the mayor spoke alongside the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. He described the Strong Cities Network as fueled by “grass roots” efforts to be more tolerant of ethnic minorities. “When we undermine intolerance, we undermine extremism and violence,” de Blasio said. The mayor said he believed the program could go “far beyond the work of law enforcement,” urging the creation of programs “to show people they are cared for.” The Strong Cities Network is described by the Justice Department as a coalition among cities and communities to share information and training guides on stopping extremism; it will include grants for local initiatives and strategies to build resilience against terrorist recruiting. De Blasio's depiction of the program differed from the characterization offered by activists, who expressed concern that tactics used in some early adopting cities, like Boston and Los Angeles, had proved to be “divisive and counterproductive.”