The impact of national security policies in the Bay Area: Community responses and policy opportunities

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1 Connecting funders with organizations addressing the U.S. human rights challenge of our time: violations of civil liberties in the name of national security. The impact of national security policies in the Bay Area: Community responses and policy opportunities Summary On Friday, April 11, 2014 the Security & Rights Collaborative teamed up with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to host Bay Area funders and partners for a timely conversation about trends in national security and rights issues, including freedom of speech, association and religious expression in Bay Area communities. The SRC shared preliminary findings from its recent landscape survey of the field of organizations working on critical national security and human rights issues. A panel of SRC grantees spoke about their work in the Bay Area and how their advocacy is tied in to national efforts for reform. Below, the SRC shares some highlights from the event and identifies key funding opportunities in this rapidly evolving field. We also offer some next steps in this work, and invite you to engage with us as we move forward. For more than a decade various communities in the Bay Area have been subject to heightened scrutiny by local law enforcement, immigration agents, the FBI, and even the public at large. From Lodi to San Francisco to San Jose, law-abiding residents are being profiled, surveilled, and have been the target of hate crimes and discrimination. Since 2009 the Security & Rights Collaborative has been investing in capacity building for grassroots organizations in the Bay Area, as well as policy reform at the state and national levels. The briefing at Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) was an opportunity to showcase the work of some of our Bay Area grantees and share some of the key findings from a field landscape survey we recently commissioned. Highlights from the discussion, as well as some of the key findings from our survey, are presented below: I. A moment of need and opportunity: SRC strategy re-envisioned. II. Local grantees having a national impact: Bay Area advocates reflect on their successes. III. Key opportunities: policy priorities and areas of focus. IV. What comes next?: How the SRC is moving forward and opportunities for partnership. 1

2 A moment of need and opportunity In the wake of the shooting death of an Iraqi man in Sacramento that is being investigated as a hate crime, and with the unprecedented insight we now have into the surveillance of ordinary Americans, it is a critical time for funders and partners to discuss and share strategies for influencing policy and supporting the organizations working to address post-9/11 domestic civil rights issues. SRC Program Director Shireen Zaman opened the program by sharing some lessons learned from the SRC s 6 years of grant making. At the time of the SRC s founding in 2008, field research indicated two critical needs: 1) to strengthen the field of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations whose communities have been most impacted by discrimination, profiling and hate crimes since 9/11 and to build their ability to partner with national civil rights organizations, and 2) to increase local and national organizations communications capacity and rapid response ability to shift public perception of these minority communities. In early April, the SRC completed an updated review of the national security and human rights field a review that was prompted by a series of rapid developments over the past year: > As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have wound down, public opinion and attitudes have changed and the American public is weary of the war mindset. > The public now has access to new evidence of some of the most egregious national security-related rights infringements being carried out by the government, thanks to the Snowden revelations and AP reports about the New York Police Department spying on Arab and Muslim Americans. > Given this evidence, and work around other cross-cutting policies such as immigration reform and law enforcement accountability, there are important opportunities to connect these issues with other impacted communities and create momentum on a spectrum of critical rights issues. > Local policy wins across the country, notably in New York City and San Francisco. More than 35 organizations were included in the SRC s landscape survey, most of whom identified the following areas as having the most traction and potential for success in the near future: Law enforcement accountability and oversight. Countering Islamophobia and discrimination issues (including workplace discrimination, school bullying, hate crimes, etc.). Leveraging strategic communications campaigns and targeted communications work to impact the public narrative. Strengthening multi-organizational coalitions to share lessons and leverage local policy wins for national impact. Guests at the SVCF meeting discussed the risks and potential benefits of cross-movement organizing. Participants shared thoughts about the critical need to partner with allies in the civil rights movement and to incorporate security-related rights issues into the broader rights 2

3 movement. Collective efforts have paid off in the movement for oversight and accountability for the New York Police Department, which gained traction and momentum that would not have been possible had these advocacy efforts been happening in parallel rather than collectively. Local grantees having a national impact The program then turned to a panel discussion on the impact of national security policies in the Bay Area. The panelists each highlighted successes they have experienced in their work -- with SRC support -- and identified opportunities the field currently faces. > Dr. Hatem Bazian, Professor at UC Berkeley and author of an ISPU report on Bay Area Muslims, highlighted some important findings of his 2013 research on the local community, including the fact that nearly 60% of Bay Area Muslims reported experiencing some form of racism/discrimination, 25% had experienced some form of hate crime, and 43% knew someone who has been subject to a hate crime. > Yaman Salahi, Staff Attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus, discussed his organization s work with the Coalition for a Safe San Francisco. Together they advocated successfully for the 2012 passage of the Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance, which calls for increased rights protections and accountability for the SFPD s partnership with the FBI. In addition, Yaman highlighted how their efforts to declassify information gathered through the Suspicious Activity Reporting program in the Bay Area revealed the racist and Islamophobic nature of many of the reports. > Simran Kaur, Advocacy Manager of the Sikh Coalition, went on to describe some of their advocacy related to broader discrimination work in the post-9/11 context. She described how Sikh Americans were profiled and discriminated against because they looked Muslim. Passage of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act in California is a recent example of the result of their successful advocacy and their leadership of a diverse coalition of stakeholders. This legislation provides Californians with the nation s strongest protections against religious discrimination in the workplace. > Peter Ferenbach, Co-Founder of ReThink Media, described their work with a number of organizations in the national security space, including creating successful communications campaigns. He has tracked important shifts in public opinion and stronger reactions by the public against rights violations. He used the example of the media coverage of the Boston marathon bombings, and described how both the media and the public more broadly were quick to call out statements by public officials that negatively portrayed Muslims and/or advocated for infringements against civil liberties in the name of security. The panelists went on to discuss the connection between their local work and the national discussion on these issues, and how successes at the local level have created momentum for federal-level reform. Ms. Kaur spoke about innovations within advocacy efforts at the local level, and how the successful use of diverse community coalitions can inform national-level strategies. Mr. Salahi noted that the issues being faced by Bay Area communities are not unique to this region these issues are faced by similar communities across the country and the need 3

4 for reform is far reaching. The panelists comments underscored the importance of the SRC s strategy of continuing to support capacity building and policy advocacy at the local level, and connecting this work with national-level advocacy to impact these issues on a larger scale. Questions from the audience focused on how to effectively support collaborations between local/grassroots organizations and national organizations, and how to best educate other funders on the long term importance of this work, especially when so many members of the measurable-outcome-oriented philanthropic community demand rapid, short-term results. Key Opportunities Based on the findings of the SRC s recent landscape survey, the comments provided by the panelists, and the feedback from the audience, we have identified three key opportunities coming out of last Friday s discussion: 1. Invest in local efforts with an eye on national-level reform. With a gridlocked Congress and an Administration that has largely failed to move on critical security and rights issues like torture and surveillance, it is necessary that investments be made to support reform of these issues at the local level. We have already seen significant success in the reform of local policies and practices impacting Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities. This momentum, coupled with the increased scrutiny of national security-related rights infringements caused by mass surveillance, offers us a significant moment of opportunity in which national-level reform is now possible as well. 2. Support diverse coalitions to leverage resources and gain traction. As exemplified by the successes in San Francisco and New York City in winning police accountability reform, the use of diverse coalitions to unite communities and leverage related rights issues is an effective model that should be supported in other regions. As indicated in the findings of our landscape survey, these issues are being faced by communities across the country some of whom are operating in geographically isolated areas and/or with very little investment and capacity. By identifying, investing in and providing technical assistance to key organizations, multi-issue, multi-stakeholder coalitions can create additional successes in other regions. 3. Consider the importance of long-term investments for real and lasting change. There is no expiration date to the SRC s work, nor that of our grantees. The broader civil rights movement has been underway for decades, and continues to play out with these modern day issues of security-related rights abuses and resultant discrimination and profiling. While there are clear examples of long-term capacity-building investments that have the potential for short-term impact and policy reform, ultimately these efforts to shift public opinion and create a strong field of organizations is a long-term effort and funders must consider their willingness to support this work accordingly. 4

5 What comes next? These are rapidly evolving, dynamic issues. The organizations comprising the national security field are diverse. Accordingly, the SRC will continue to provide expertise, capacity and strategic advice to funders looking to engage on these issues and support this critical work. The SRC will continue to explore the most impactful ways of building long-term capacity for what some are calling the most pressing civil rights issues of our time. At the same time we will continue to identify and fund local opportunities for short-term wins. Our resources are relatively modest when compared with many other civil rights and social justice movements. But we have already experienced significant success in our efforts to build the field of grassroots organizations collaborating on local, regional and national-level policy reform. We will continue to align our efforts with those of other stakeholders in order to leverage our respective resources and to maximize the power of our collective efforts. As part of our continuous effort to make impactful investments, we are currently undertaking a strategy review process. We will be sharing the final results of this review and presenting opportunities for shared investments in a discussion with funders in mid-june. Please check your inboxes for the details of this event in the coming weeks. If you are unsure of whether you are on the SRC s mailing list and would like to be informed of future events and program and field updates, please contact Debbie Zeidenberg at In the meantime, if you d like to share your feedback on the information presented above, we d love to hear from you! Please contact SRC Program Director Shireen Zaman at or by phone at About Proteus Fund Proteus Fund is a public foundation committed to advancing justice through democracy, human rights and peace. We partner with individual donors and foundations to achieve their goals through strategy development, research and fund management. Proteus is known for tailored grantmaking initiatives that are responsive, have high impact and integrate support for lobbying activity. Our work advances issues at the leading edge of democracy and social change. 5

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