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Congress addresses bomb threats at historically Black colleges

(WASHINGTON) — Congress is addressing campus security at historically Black colleges and universities in the wake of dozens of high-profile bomb threats.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will hold a hearing Thursday featuring HBCU students alongside FBI and Department of Education officials.

The hearing aims to explore how the government can help to improve institution security and prevent domestic terrorism.

“In one threatening call targeting Spelman College, an HBCU for women in Atlanta, a caller claimed they had singled out that school for one reason: ‘there are too many Black students in it,"” said Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Sen. Carolyn B. Maloney in her opening statement.

The campuses of at least 36 HBCUs, as well as other universities, have been targeted and at least 18 of these colleges and universities were targeted on Feb. 1 — the first day of Black History Month.

More than one-third of the nation’s 101 historically Black academic institutions have been threatened.

The FBI announced that the threats were being investigated as “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes” and stated that the investigation was of the “highest priority.”

No bombs have been found on any of the campuses. Several persons of interest have been identified, according to the FBI, but no one has been arrested.

“These reprehensible threats against Black institutions echo the tactics employed by the Ku Klux Klan and others decades ago as they tried to instill terror in the Black community and prevent Black Americans from gaining civil rights,” Maloney added.

These threats came as hate crimes against Black Americans are on the rise, increasing by nearly 50% between 2019 and 2020, according to the FBI.

“It is imperative that law enforcement agencies prioritize holding perpetrators accountable and working to keep campuses safe—while also pursuing a broader strategy to address the rising tide of violent white supremacy in this country,” Maloney said.

Vice President Kamala Harris announced Wednesday that targeted HBCUs will be eligible for new grant funding for additional campus security tools.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have also met with HBCU leaders on tools they can use to strengthen campus safety.

“HBCUs matter, and every HBCU student matters,” Maloney said. “That is why we must do everything possible to support them, especially when they are threatened or attacked.”

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