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The Political Science Department will research terrorism and political violence in southern Illinois thanks to a grant from Homeland Security.

Suranjan Weeraratne, associate professor of political science, said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security put out a notice back in April when he noticed that the university should apply for it.

“I and the other two colleagues got together, we submitted an application in May, and they let us know about a month ago that we got it,” Weeraratne said.

He said the department was happy to receive the grant for $332,491 and how competitive the process was.

“Joe Biden talked about the DHS awarding universities, local police departments, and corporations so the university will benefit from visibility,” Weeraratne said.

He said through their research they will talk to a multitude of groups in the area.

“We intend to talk with a bunch of people, law enforcement, community organizations, faith leads, college students and so on,” Weeraratne said.

Weeraratne said the program does not focus on any political spectrum.

“I don’t think the right or the left has a full monopoly on violence,” Weerarante said. “So whether you are on the right or the left you can have violent elements with your group.”

Weeraratne said their project guarantees for a two-year period from October until Sept. 30, 2024.

“The first part of the grant is we are going to do a survey of people in southern Illinois and the second part is based on the data that we get from the survey where we do training sets,” Weeraratne said.

Weeraratne said undergraduate research assistants are going to be involved in each stage of the project and they intend to hire a few from next semester onward.

“Our major expectation is increasing societal awareness so that is why we are doing training sessions for law enforcement,” Weeraratne said.

He said his work dealing with terrorism internationally will connect well with this program’s targets.

“A lot of my work has been on international terrorism,” Weeraratne said. “So those are the same kinds of strategies that some of the white supremacists are using right now.”

Political science chair Ken Moffett said the university will receive benefits from the program work being conducted in the southern Illinois community.

“There will be workshops that are going to be developed for the community with respect to terrorism and political violence prevention,” Moffett said. “Some of those materials are going to be used in a couple of political science courses.”

Moffett said the southern Illinois region has predictors for political violence, which is why the area is fitting for the program.

“In the 41 counties that we’re going to be examining it because a lot of the predictors for domestic terrorism and political violence exist right in this area,” Moffett said. “Part of the grant is to help mitigate some of those conditions.”

Moffett said his expertise in politics will help within the survey part of the program.

“I am one of the people who is helping design the survey and analyze the survey results once we get them, then also bringing my expertise to bear with respect to American politics,” Moffett said.

Moffett said he is excited to begin the work.

He said his expectations for this program are to enhance community awareness regarding political violence.

“My expectation is enhanced levels of community awareness and law enforcement," Moffett said. “The hope is that people will know what to do and possibly prevent an incident of domestic terrorism or political violence.”

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