Attorney General William Barr identified New York City, Seattle, and Portland as three cities that have “permitted violence and destruction of property to persist” following President Trump’s executive order on limiting federal funds to “anarchist jurisdictions” in the United States.
The Justice Department announced on Monday that those cities “have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities” amid months of violence following the death in police custody of George Floyd, which resulted in nationwide protests as well as clashes with police, looting, rioting, arson, and more.
“When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,” Barr said Monday. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance. It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens.”
Trump’s early September memorandum stated that “it is the policy and purpose of the United States Government to protect the lives and property of all people in the United States from unlawful acts of violence and destruction” and that “without law and order, democracy cannot function.” The president said that “anarchy has recently beset some of our States and cities” and claimed that “for the past few months, several State and local governments have contributed to the violence and destruction in their jurisdictions by failing to enforce the law, disempowering and significantly defunding their police departments, and refusing to accept offers of Federal law enforcement assistance.” He named New York City, Seattle, and Portland in particular.
“The Federal Government provides States and localities with hundreds of billions of dollars every year, which fund a wide array of programs, such as housing, public transportation, job training, and social services. These funds have been collected from American taxpayers who entrusted their money to the Federal Government to serve our communities and our citizens,” Trump wrote. “My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones. To ensure that Federal funds are neither unduly wasted nor spent in a manner that directly violates our Government’s promise to protect life, liberty, and property, it is imperative that the Federal Government review the use of Federal funds by jurisdictions that permit anarchy, violence, and destruction in America’s cities.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reacted angrily to Trump’s executive order earlier this month, telling reporters that this was “another attempt to kill New York City” from the president.
“He better have an army if he thinks he’s gonna walk down the street in New York. New Yorkers don’t want to have anything to do with him,” Cuomo said. “He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City. People don’t want to have anything to do with him.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary tweeted at the time: “As much as Donald Trump wants New York City to drop dead, we will never let this stand. This has nothing to do with ‘law and order.’ This is a racist campaign stunt out of the Oval Office to attack millions of people of color.”
The Justice Department said Monday that its “criteria” for evaluating cities included “whether a jurisdiction forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction,” “whether a jurisdiction disempowers or defunds police departments,” and “whether a jurisdiction unreasonably refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government.”
In justifying its designations, the Justice Department said shootings in New York City have risen since the end of May, including a 177% increase over July 2019 and a 166% increase over August 2019. The department also noted that the New York City Council cut $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s 2021 budget and both de Blasio and Cuomo “have forcefully rejected federal law enforcement support.”
The department also highlighted that in September, Portland “marked 100 consecutive nights of protests marred by vandalism, chaos, and even killing,” but last month, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler “sent a letter to President Trump expressly rejecting the Administration’s offer of federal law enforcement to stop the violent protests.” The Justice Department announcement also criticized Seattle for “permitting anarchists and activists to seize six square blocks of the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, naming their new enclave the ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’ (CHAZ) and then the ‘Capitol Hill Occupied Protest’ (CHOP)” and noted that Mayor Jenny Durkan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee “publicly rejected federal involvement in law enforcement activities within the city of Seattle.”
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