The Department of Justice on Monday identified three cities—New York City, Portland, and Seattle—as jurisdictions that have permitted “violence and destruction of property,” thereby meeting President Trump’s criteria for withholding federal funding to those areas.
Earlier this month, the president issued a memorandum asking the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Attorney General Barr to list the areas that “have permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities.”
Trump called the cities “anarchist jurisdictions” and asked the OMB to issue guidance to the heads of executive departments and agencies “restricting eligibility” and “disfavoring” them from federal funding.
“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,” Trump wrote.
The DOJ noted that all three cities rejected federal law enforcement support amid skyrocketing increases in crime.
In July and August of 2020, shootings in New York City increased 177 percent and 166 percent from last year, according to the DOJ statement.
While the city faced increased unrest, gun violence, and property damage, the New York City Council cut $1 billion from NYPD’s FY21 budget.
The budget resulted in the cancellation of the new police recruiting class, cuts to overtime spending, and the transfer of certain police functions, including school safety, out of the NYPD.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan and Brooklyn District Attorneys have declined to prosecute charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly arising from the protests, and the District Attorneys in Queens and the Bronx have declined to prosecute other protest-related charges.
The DOJ noted that both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo forcefully rejected Trump’s offer of federal law enforcement support.
Shootings in Portland, Oregon, meanwhile, increased by more than 140% in June and July 2020 compared to the same period last year, amid more than “100 consecutive nights of protests marred by vandalism, chaos, and even killing,” according to the DOJ’s statement.
Those bent on violence regularly started fires, threw projectiles at law enforcement officers, and destroyed property. Numerous law enforcement officers, among others, suffered injury.
Shootings increased by more than 140% in June and July 2020 compared to the same period last year.
In the midst of this violence, the Portland City Council cut $15 million from the police bureau, eliminating 84 positions. Crucially, the cuts included the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which investigates shootings, and several positions from the police team that responds to emergency incidents.
Portland Mayor Wheeler also rejected Trump’s offer of federal law enforcement to stop the violent rioting.
The DOJ statement goes on to excoriate Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for allowing “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)” for nearly a month starting in June.
Law enforcement and fire fighters were precluded from entering the territory. The Seattle Police Department was ordered to abandon their precinct within the CHOP.
Person-related crime in the CHOP increased 525% from the same period of time in the same area the year before, including by Mayor Durkan’s own count “two additional homicides, 6 additional robberies, and 16 additional aggravated assaults (to include 2 additional non-fatal shootings).”
The CHOP was allowed to stand for nearly a month, during which time two teenagers were shot and killed in the zone.
Like Portland and NYC, the Seattle City Council, Mayor Durkan, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee also expressly rejected federal law enforcement support within the city of Seattle, the DOJ statement notes.
The attorney general said in a statement that state and local leaders in these cities have endangered citizens, including protestors, by their dereliction.
“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. “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.”
The DOJ said that it is continuing to evaluate other cities using the criteria set out in the president’s memorandum, therefore the list will be updated periodically.