The Department of Justice accused local leaders in three cities of hindering law enforcement officials from “doing their jobs” during protests this summer and fall.
The DOJ identified Seattle, Portland and New York City as cities that “permitted violence and destruction of property” after the Trump administration issued a memorandum titled “Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities.”
“Unfortunately, anarchy has recently beset some of our States and cities,” the memorandum says. “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.”
The memorandum claims Seattle “allowed anarchists and rioters” to establish the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone and “endorsed” the “lawlessness.” Portland officials are accused of “allow(ing) violent anarchists to unlawfully riot and engage in criminal activity on the streets, including the destruction of property.”
The memorandum names New York for permitting “looting to take place for over a week, resulting in damage to an estimated 450 businesses” — and says the Office of Management and Budget will determine whether cities are “anarchist jurisdictions” whose federal grants should be “restricted” or “disfavored.”
“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,” Attorney General William Barr said in the DOJ release. “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 listed criteria it is using to determine whether cities need to be “reviewed.”
“Whether a jurisdiction forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction.”
“Whether a jurisdiction has withdrawn law enforcement protection from a geographical area or structure that law enforcement officers are lawfully entitled to access but have been officially prevented from accessing or permitted to access only in exceptional circumstances, except when law enforcement officers are briefly withheld as a tactical decision intended to resolve safely and expeditiously a specific and ongoing unlawful incident posing an imminent threat to the safety of individuals or law enforcement officers.”
“Whether a jurisdiction disempowers or defunds police departments.”
“Whether a jurisdiction unreasonably refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government.”
“Any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate.”
The cities of Portland and New York did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on the DOJ’s announcement. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan sent McClatchy the following statement in response to the announcement:
“The Trump administration’s threats to defund Seattle, Portland, and New York are a gross misuse of federal power and blatantly unlawful. Trump, the Department of Justice, and Barr’s obsession with Seattle and me is irrational and most importantly, a huge distraction,” Durkan said. “In Seattle, we’ll remain focused on addressing the four crises in front of us: the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented economic downturn, the greatest civil rights reckoning in decades, and the continued threat of climate change.”
The Trump administration reportedly looked for ways to slap Seattle and Portland officials with either criminal or civil charges for their handling of protests this summer, the Associated Press reported. The DOJ did not say whether it had decided to move forward with charges, according to AP.