An Upcoming Hyper-Militarized and Anti-Muslim Tactical Officers Training in Chicagoland Sparks Deep Concerns for Muslims and Communities of Color
(CHICAGO, IL, 10/4/16) – The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today expressed deep concerns about anti-Muslim and hyper-militarized tactical training at the upcoming Illinois Tactical Officers Association’s (ITOA) 2016 Tactical Training Conference taking place at the Stonegate Conference and Banquet Center in Hoffman Estates from October 9-13. CAIR-Chicago is calling on Stonegate as well as Cook County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (DHSEM) and other government agencies to end their relationships with ITOA.
ITOA’s Tactical Training Conference is a five-day SWAT tactical training and weapons expo aimed at training local police and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) “like tactical squads in the military”, and increasing the flow of weapons and militarized technology into greater Chicagoland and throughout nation. This poses a direct threat to Muslim communities and communities of color.
The keynote speaker for the conference is Sebastian Gorka, a far-right extremist and Donald Trump consultant who has consistently called for the expansion of law enforcement to carry out suspicionless monitoring and surveillance of Muslim and refugee communities.
CAIR-Chicago will be hosting a press conference Thursday at 10:00 AM along with American Friends Service Committee, Black Lives Matter-Chicago, Arab American Action Network, Center for New Community, and other organizations to give statements and answer questions.
WHEN: Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 10:00am CST
WHO: CAIR-Chicago, Black Lives Matter – Chicago, Arab American Action Network, Center for New Community, Organized Communities Against Deportations, American Friends Service Committee
WHERE: CAIR-Chicago, 17 N. State Street, Suite 1500, Chicago IL, 60602
“Sebastian Gorka’s entire career is largely built on fanning the flames of post-9/11 Islamophobic fear-mongering,” says Hoda Katebi, communications coordinator of CAIR-Chicago. “This toxic climate of militarization in concert with anti-Muslim propaganda manifests into ever-more violent policing, use of military-grade equipment by local police, heightened warrantless surveillance and entrapment, and increased spending on policing rather than community services.”
“The fact that a discredited anti-Muslim polemicist has been chosen as the keynote speaker at an event designed to train taxpayer-funded law enforcement officers is a double slap to the safety of our communities,” says Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR-Chicago. “ITOA’s misguided selection of Gorka is the latest in a series of high profile incidents in which trainers with well-documented bigoted and Islamophobic views are paid to indoctrinate law enforcement under the pretense of training.”
ITOA is a small, non-governmental organization that works with Cook County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (DHSEM) and other government agencies to train local and federal law enforcement agents. US Marshals, military personnel, DHS agents, and other government personnel from across the nation frequently attend ITOA’s conferences and weapons expos. The Safariland Group, a major military-grade weapons manufacturer whose tear gas canisters have been used from foreign dictatorships to Ferguson, is this year’s ITOA Conference corporate sponsor.
Charles Baptist, the General Manager of Stonegate, refused to meet with a group of concerned Muslims from the surrounding community – some of the very same people who would experience the manifestations of the conference’s hyper-policing, militarization and tactical trainings. Baptist refused to take action regarding the venue’s complicity in housing a hyper-militarized conference rampant with Islamophobia. Instead, he suggested that profits would be placed over community concern and safety. “If David Duke wanted to throw a birthday party here,” Baptist told CAIR-Chicago, “why would I say no?”
Beyond law enforcement, ITOA conference attendees include health professionals and emergency response personnel who will also be trained in a hyper-militarized and anti-Muslim environment. A recent report cites that almost half of victims of police shootings have had a disability status or mental health crisis.
The conference comes also only less than two months after CAIR-Chicago filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against members of the Chicago Police Department for the unlawful arrest, physical assault, racial profiling, and public humiliation of the female Muslim student Itemad Al-Matar–only one of numerous cases CAIR-Chicago has received involving CPD abuse and racial profiling.
CAIR-Chicago calls on Stonegate as well as DHSEM and other government agencies to end their relationship with ITOA and the hyper-militarization and Islamophobia that has proven to be harmful and deadly for communities of color across the nation.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.