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University of Maryland terrorism center database includes peaceful pro-lifers


Students for Life considering legal action over ‘concerning’ portrayal of pro-lifers

University of Maryland’s terrorism database appears to include two peaceful pro-life students.

UMD did not respond to inquiries from The College Fix, but a pro-life group said its attorneys would review the research to consider legal action.

The university’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism has endeavored to track alleged “extremism” from 1948 to 2021 through a database titled, “Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States.”

PIRUS lists mainstream pro-life organizations, like Pro-Life Action League, among threats such as the Ku Klux Klan and Al Qaeda. Moreover, two subjects affiliated with Students for Life of America appear to be peaceful protesters who were cleared of charges, The Fix found.

“We have not been contacted by START or given a look at what they seem to be alleging,” Students for Life spokesperson Kristi Hamrick said in an email on Friday. “Our attorneys are looking into this program.”

Two Students for Life members made national news in August 2020 when Washington, D.C. police arrested them for trying to write “black pre-born lives matter” on a sidewalk. The group sued, and an appeals court later found the city was selectively enforcing the law and letting Black Lives Matter protesters off the hook.

Students for Life has maintained the students never broke the law because police permitted them in advance to draw on the sidewalk. Their charges were eventually dropped.

PIRUS shows the demographic information and political affiliation of each “offender” and their home state. It relies entirely on public sources describing “individuals in the United States who radicalized to the point of violent or non-violent ideologically motivated criminal activity, or ideologically motivated association with a foreign or domestic extremist organization,” according to START’s website.

Two people affiliated with Students for Life are listed as a college-aged man from D.C. and a college-aged woman from Maryland who is also tied to the Towson University chapter of Students for Life. PIRUS notes that both acted as part of a group and were non-violent. These details describe the individuals involved with the D.C. sidewalk writing.

The dataset also lists the ages for the two individuals in the database – 22-years-old and 29-years-old. These are the ages of both as reported by The Washington Post soon after the incident. The listed residencies for the two individuals also match the two students.

“We are very concerned about government-funded programs engaging in viewpoint discrimination as they attempt to insinuate that there may be future harms from peaceful pro-life people,” Hamrick told The Fix.

The Fix asked the PIRUS team via email why its database includes the pro-life students and other nonviolent pro-lifers but did not receive a response in the past week. UMD’s Office of General Counsel did not respond to two emails asking whether it has examined the fairness of the research.  Spokeswoman Deanne Winslett did not respond to an email this morning asking for comment on the database.

The Fix asked the university why BLM is absent from the database given the arrests and convictions of rioters for arson and other crimes in 2020. START’s website claims its PIRUS numbers from 2019 through 2021 are “comprehensive, with the exception of the Capitol breach defendants.”

The Bush administration created START in 2005 as one of its “Centers of Excellence” to aid the government’s response to security threats after the 9/11 attacks. The UMD think tank shares its data with “homeland security professionals through tailored research, education and training efforts,” its website says.

Several media outlets have cited START research and scholars to question claims about left-wing extremism in America while emphasizing alleged “far-right” activity.

START is now using a $762,553 award from the Department of Justice to expand the scope of PIRUS. Its ongoing research project will explore “judicial outcomes and recidivism” among supposed terrorists in the United States, according to an abstract.

“The project will significantly improve the scientific knowledge that prosecutors, judges, probation officers, and other criminal justice professionals use to make important prosecution and supervision decisions,” the award page says.

Editor’s note: The article headline and intro statement has been updated. An additional line about the ages listed in the PIRUS database show the ages of the individuals. The article has since been updated to remove the names of the students.

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IMAGE: Students for Life of America

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Hudson Crozier is a student at the University of North Texas studying journalism and political science. He is senior contributor for Upward News and has also written for The Federalist, Red Liberty Media, and others.