CAIR-Chicago today held a press conference with Black Lives Matter – Chicago, Arab American Action Network, Center for New Community, Organized Communities Against Deportations, and American Friends Service Committee, calling for the end of relationships between ITOA and Cook County DHS over their hyper-militarized and anti-Muslim trainings.
“CAIR-Chicago harbors deep concern in regards to the Illinois Tactical Officers Association and its anti-Muslim, hyper-militarized 2016 Annual SWAT/Police Tactical Training Conference. The conference, which is scheduled to take place at the Stonegate Conference and Banquet Center in Hoffman Estates next week, poses a direct threat to Muslim communities and communities of color across Chicagoland and beyond.
The conference and weapons expo, along with training local police and medical professionals “like tactical squads in the military” and increase the flow of weapons and militarized technology into greater Chicagoland, is hosting a well-known, discredited Islamophobe as the keynote speaker, no less.
Sebastian Gorka is an anti-Muslim extremist and Trump consultant who ITOA labels a supposed “Terrorist Expert.” His bigoted commentary against Muslims is analogous to that of Trump himself.
He advocated for baseless surveillance and spying of Muslims and Mosques for years, cautioned against admitting Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives as akin to “suicide,” enjoys strong ties to violent military and mercenary institutions, and frequently gives talks on “Irregular warfare.”
In 2016 Gorka published “Defeating Jihad,” a book of anti-Muslim propaganda recommending that the United States launch a “strategic-level counter-propaganda campaign…in exactly the same way that we did during the Cold War” in order to destroy the “ideology of global jihadism.” which he argues is an essential part of Islam.
As Muslims in this country who are being kicked off of airplanes left and right, tackled by CPD officers for trying to catch the red line home, shot and killed execution style, and set on fire—we know this propaganda campaign that has encouraged violence and hate crimes against the Muslim community has already been underway for years—and Gorka’s work and this ITOA conference only continue to add the lighter fluid.
At CAIR-Chicago we see rises of hate crimes anytime Trump is given a platform to espouse his bigoted and racist views—we can only imagine therefore the consequences of this same rhetoric being broadcasted in Hoffman Estates, to armed and military-trained law enforcement.
What Muslim would feel safe when their emergency responder or local police has been trained in a heavily militarized, anti-Muslim conference?
This of course then only begs the question—who then is this conference training law enforcement to “serve and protect,” anyway?
The fact that this conference has taken place for almost three decades without raising eyebrows is concerning. But even more concerning is the fact that our tax-paid government entities regularly collaborate with ITOA – the Cook County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management have worked with ITOA to train local and federal law enforcements agents. DHS agents and government personnel nationally frequently attend such highly problematic conferences and weapons expos.
As a civil rights organization with deep concerns with ITOA and their conferences, we call on Cook County DHSEM and other government agencies—as well as Stonegate Conference and Banquet Center—to end their relationships with ITOA.
In a time of heightened Islamophobia and police shootings, the very last thing that our communities of color need is our tax-paid government agencies and law enforcement to receive tactical training sponsored by weapons manufacturers and taught by anti-Muslim and racist speakers. ”
— Hoda Katebi, CAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator