New York City is joining Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, in suing the Trump administration over its decision to place the three cities on a list of “anarchist jurisdictions” that could have their federal funding withheld.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said during an Oct. 22 press briefing that the complaint would be filed later that day in Seattle, blaming President Donald Trump for undermining the cities’ efforts to help their residents hit by hardships related to the pandemic.
“It’s morally wrong. It’s legally unacceptable. It’s unconstitutional, and we’re going to fight it,” de Blasio said. “If the Trump administration persisted in trying to illegally take away from New York City, we will take them to court.”
On Sept. 21, U.S. Attorney General William Barr designated New York City, Seattle, and Portland as “anarchist jurisdictions” under a directive issued by Trump earlier that month. Designated cities could lose their federal funding for slashing their police budgets while tolerating violent protests and riots.
“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 at that time in a statement, adding that he hoped the three cities would “reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government.”
“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,” he said.
According to the Justice Department, New York City was added to the anarchist list because its city council approved a budget in July that cut $1 billion from the NYPD’s $6 billion annual budget, despite a sharp increase in unrest, gun violence, and property damage following the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests.
“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,” the Justice Department’s statement read. “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 Justice Department also found Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo responsible for New York City’s designation. It stated that they’ve both turned down Trump’s offer to send federal law enforcement into the city to help restore order.
“This would be yet another example of illegal and unconstitutional actions by the president,” de Blasio said in July, after Trump offered to send federal police to a number of Democrat-run cities. “We have often had to confront him in court, and we usually win.”