The Department of Justice designated New York City, Portland, and Seattle as “anarchistic” jurisdictions on Monday, further escalating attempts to cut federal funding from Democrat-run cities.
The move comes just three weeks after President Donald Trump sent a memo to Attorney General Bill Barr and Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf, instructing them to identify cities “that have permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities (anarchist jurisdictions).”
The memo threatened to withhold funding from cities where state and local officials have refused federal intervention during city-wide protests or have moved to defund the police — i.e. reallocate funding from police departments to community programs and social services.
“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,” Barr said in a statement on Monday.
“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.”
Earlier this month, Democratic mayors and governors issued a joint statement, calling the President’s memo unconstitutional and reminding him that he is not above the law. They also accused him of trying to distract the country from the growing number of coronavirus deaths, which has now surpassed 200,000.
“Our cities, and the millions of Americans who we represent, are not President Trump’s political pawns,” the statement read. “Now, instead of leadership from the White House, we are faced with new attacks that are unlawful, unconstitutional, and will be undoubtedly defeated in court.”
This is not the first time the Trump administration has tried to cut funding from states and cities over issues with the police.
In 2017, the DOJ attempted to withhold criminal justice grants from jurisdictions that refused to help federal agents detain and deport undocumented immigrants. Since then, three federal appeals courts have ruled that the administration acted unlawfully.
While the Trump administration has crafted the narrative that New York City, Portland, and Seattle are liberal cities that have descended into absolute chaos and lawlessness, there is no evidence to support this claim.
In fact, the three cities with the highest number of murders per capita are Miami, Oklahoma City, and Jacksonville.
There may have been more protests in cities like New York City following the police killing of George Floyd, but engaging in the right to protest is not breaking the law.
And while there have been instances of looting and property damage during these demonstrations, 93% of Black Lives Matter protests have been peaceful and nonviolent.
On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to the DOJ’s assessment, calling the move to potentially defund the city “unconstitutional.”
“I was out in Elmhurst Queens this morning, I saw peace, tranquility, I saw people going about their business, people excited that it’s the first day of school — I saw anything but anarchy,” De Blasio said during a daily news conference.
“This is just another one of President Trump’s games. It’s insulting to the people of New York City and his effort to withhold our funding is unconstitutional.”