Minneapolis City Council rejects federal grant to combat violent extremism

The Minneapolis City Council demonstrated once again this week why seating activists in government is counterproductive.    

This Council makeup is widely viewed as dysfunctional, and its rejection of a federal grant aimed at combatting violent extremism further cements that view.

Earlier this year, the city’s Public Health Department identified a federal grant opportunity that focused on a public health approach to combating extremism. The department briefed the City Council in May on its proposal to apply for up to $350,000 from the FEMA Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, to focus on combatting indoctrination and recruitment of violent extremism. The Council voted unanimously to move forward with the grant application.

Then in early October, the Council began hedging on the proposal because of concerns the program plan appeared to be directed towards communities of color. Some Council members began questioning the programming being planned and likened it to previous Homeland Security Department funding that they felt unfairly targeted communities of color.

At the October 23 Council meeting, the Health Department presented its plan. In its presentation, the Health Department made clear that the grant would support the Minneapolis Health Department’s “Community Partnership to Identify and Prevent Violence Extremism in Minneapolis” program, using a public health approach, not an enforcement or surveillance approach.

The presentation addressed the forms of violence the grant would target:

  • Racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, including white supremacists
  • Anti-government, including militia
  • Lone offenders

That apparently wasn’t enough for the Minneapolis City Council in 2023. Several of the members (Wonsley, Payne, Ellison, and Chughtai) spoke out against the funding because they felt it didn’t address “white supremacy” enough, but rather focused on communities of color.

After debate, the Council decided against accepting the grant funding because it lacked the two-thirds vote to formally accept it.

Council Member Vetaw was disappointed with the failure to accept the grant, expressing the frustration that many have developed with activist dysfunction at this point:

“It was, again, the public health approach to these sorts of things, and I thought that’s what we were all on board for — looking at different ways, you know, to tackle some of the issues, especially around public safety in our community.”  

The Minneapolis City Council can’t seem to get out of its own way in 2023. Whether it’s failing to come together on plans to re-establish a 3rd Precinct Police Station for over three years or failing to accept funding to combat violent extremism, the activist nature of this Council serves its citizens poorly and the dysfunction in creates bleeds over into the larger metropolitan area.

The problem is there are few solutions on the horizon, with several of the current Council members being opposed next month by even more radical candidates.  Minneapolis voters must be sure not to make a bad situation worse.

Minneapolis and Minnesota deserve better.