Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, announced on Wednesday that her office will be working with several cities to form the Strong Cities Network, a law enforcement initiative aimed at combating extremism.
New York City is among the 25 cities from around the world that have signed up for the program.
Other cities that have joined the program include Minneapolis, Montreal, Rotterdam, and Paris.
The program encourages participants to communicate directly with each other about suspicious activity while “respecting the fundamental rights of citizens.”
While speaking at the United Nations, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York joined the program because it will target intolerance and make the city safer.
“The Strong Cities network will be a message to all families who have lost loved ones because of extremism that something is being done in a new and powerful way,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio also said the SCN would not focus on one type of extremism. He referenced the 1994 attacks on the Planned Parenthood clinics in Boston as well as the racially motivated Charleston, South Carolina church massacre earlier this year as the different types of extremism SCN would combat.
“We will be vigilant against all forms of violent extremism whether it is based on religious, racial, nationalistic or ideological intolerance,” he said.
According to the New York Daily News, civil liberty advocates are concerned about the program, which they fear will unfairly single out Muslims.
The activists cited other anti-terror initiatives, which they feel have unjustly targeted Muslims.
Last week, 20 groups sent letters to Mayor de Blasio requesting to discuss the city’s involvement with SCN.
The groups expressing concern include the Justice League NYC, the Association of Muslim American Lawyers, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. They believe the SCN would eventually become active with the Justice Department’s “Countering Violent Extremism,” which they say “overwhelmingly” target Muslim communities.
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the NYCLU, said she appreciated de Blasio’s comments about diversity. She also said, “Today’s announcement raises concerns because what we have heard about CVEs indicates that they can be counterproductive, violative of constitutional rights and stigmatizing.”
During her speech to the United Nations, Lynch cited the important work the Justice Department has done in Boston and Minneapolis with the CVE programs.