On Sunday, over 30 synagogues in Massachusetts received bomb threats, just days after Boston’s city council voted against accepting a multi-million-dollar federal anti-terrorism grant. The council cited concerns that accepting the grant would be perceived as racist.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s grant, aimed at enhancing preparedness against acts of terrorism, was declined by the council amid concerns that increased law enforcement funding could adversely impact minority communities, Daily Wire reported.
The rejected grant, part of the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region initiative, was intended to support activities such as planning, training, and operational needs for responding to terrorist threats. The refusal has sparked controversy, especially in light of the recent threats to Jewish institutions. No explosives were found following police sweeps of the synagogues, confirming the threats as hoaxes.
The grant saw a 6 to 6 vote, with the opposition claiming that funding law enforcement to combat terrorism would “do more harm than good” to minorities.
Boston’s decision affects neighboring towns within the Homeland Security Region, including Brookline, where two synagogues received direct threats via email. Paul Campbell, a public information officer for Brookline’s police department, expressed concern about the recurring nature of such threats and the need for heightened vigilance among Jewish institutions.
“Unfortunately these incidents have happened at temples from time to time,” Campbell said. “Upon learning of this most recent bomb hoax, we sent a message to all of the Jewish institutions, advising them of the incident to at least make them aware and so they could contact us if they needed us.”
Councilor Michael Flaherty, who supported accepting the anti-terrorism funding, criticized the council’s rejection as nonsensical and embarrassing.
“Not only did they fail the residents of Boston, they failed eight other cities and towns that were depending on this funding to protect themselves against acts of terrorism,” he said in a statement to the Boston Herald.
Council President Ed Flynn underscored the significance of the funding, citing Boston’s history with terror attacks, including the Boston Marathon bombing and the 9/11 hijackers’ departure from Boston’s Logan International Airport.
“Boston is not immune from these issues, unfortunately,” he said.
“The FBI takes hoax threats very seriously because it puts innocent people at risk,” she said. “While we have no information to indicate a specific and credible threat, we will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to gather, share, and act upon threat information as it comes to our attention.”
The opposition to the grant came from Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Liz Breadon, Kendra Lara, Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia, and Brian Worrell. The decision has sparked controversy, with critics pointing to BRIC, Boston’s police department intelligence wing, and its alleged disproportionate tracking of people of color.
In response to the city council’s decision, Democrat State Senator Nick Collins introduced legislation to transfer the authority to approve public safety grants from local councils to the state legislature and governor. This move aims to prevent politics from overshadowing public health and safety considerations.
As Boston plans to refile the grant next year with new council members, the recent threats to synagogues highlight the ongoing debate over balancing public safety with concerns about racial profiling and law enforcement’s impact on minority communities. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the complex challenges cities face in addressing security needs while ensuring equitable treatment for all citizens.