WASHINGTON (Washington Times) — The Justice Department on Monday declared New York, Portland and Seattle “anarchist jurisdictions,” the first step toward revoking federal funding from those cities.
President Trump earlier this month ordered federal agencies to look for ways to cut off federal funding in Democratic-led cities besieged by violence this summer. The Justice Department’s move escalates the criticism Mr. Trump has been leveling at Democrat leaders, blaming them for the rising crime and violence.
The list of cities is expected to be updated periodically, the Justice Department said.
Much of the crime and looting plaguing the cities has been on the rise since Memorial Day when George Floyd, a Black man, died while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police.
In a statement, Attorney General William P. Barr said the three cities identified Monday “have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.”
“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,” Mr. 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,” he said.
New York Attorney General Letita James said she was readying legal action, calling the designation an attempt by Mr. Trump to “scare the country’ into reelecting him.
“The president should be prepared to defend this illegal order in court, which hypocritically lays out the groundwork to defund New York and the very types of law enforcement President Trump pretends to care about,” she said. “We have beat the president and the illegal actions of his DOJ in court before and have no doubt we will beat them again.”
The Justice Department did not detail which federal funds would be cut from the cities. White House Budget Director Russell Vought is expected to issue guidance to federal agencies about withdrawing funds within the coming weeks.
Mr. Barr said a city can be named an “anarchist jurisdiction” if it forbids police from restoring order amid widespread violence; it has withdrawn law enforcement protection from a geographic area or prevented law enforcement from accessing a certain area; if it has defunded or removed power from the police; or refuses to accept assistance of federal law enforcement.
A city can also be added to the list under any other related factors deemed appropriate by the attorney general, he continued.
Representatives of the cities named by Mr. Barr did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Washington Times.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, earlier this month threatened to sue the Trump administration if it followed through with the funding cuts.
“I believe the president is fundamentally a bully, which I’ve said too many times, and I’ve known him very well for a very long period of time. It doesn’t work in New York because you can’t bully New Yorkers,” he said at the time. We just don’t get bullied. We don’t respond well to it, and I want to talk about facts.”
Mr. Cuomo said he is concerned about the rising crime in New York, but the issue is a local one, not a federal matter.
New York made the list because shootings were up 177 percent between July 2019 and July 2020, the Justice Department said. Amid the rising violence, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council agreed to cut $1 billion from the city’s police budget.
Portland was included because of its more than 100 consecutive nights of violence and protests since the Floyd death. Mayor Ted Wheeler has explicitly rejected federal help as the violence increases.
A skirmish between Trump supporters and Antifa activists last month led to the death of Aaron Danielson. A supporter for the right-wing Patriot Payer Group, Danielson was allegedly murdered by Michael Reinoehl, an Antifa activist killed by authorities days later.
The Portland City Council voted in June to slash its police department budget by at least $15 million.
Seattle, meanwhile, was listed because of its “autonomous zone,” a police-free six-block area in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the Justice Department said.
Seattle voted in August to cut its police budget by roughly $3 million.
Law enforcement was barred from entering the territory where prison-related crime increased by 525 percent in June from the same period last year, according to the Justice Department.
The Justice Department offers funding to support local law enforcement and public safety activities to assist victims of crime, provide technical assistance and training to local police and conduct research.
The two main Justice Department grant agencies are the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Office of Justice Programs, which are dedicated to bolstering local law enforcement resources.
It is not clear how much funding from those programs goes to the cities on Mr. Barr’s hit list or if other Justice Department funding programs, such as the Office on Violence Against Women, which doles out funds to combat domestic violence, could be impacted.
Jeff Mordock of The Washington Times contributed to the contents of this report.