Officials in New York City, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon, permitted violence and destruction of property and have failed to undertake measures to counteract criminal activities, the Department of Justice said on Sept. 21.
Continuing unrest in the cities since late May has led to deaths, looting, and the burning of buildings.
“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 a statement.
“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.”
In a joint statement, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, all Democrats, called the effort to strip federal funding “thoroughly political and unconstitutional.”
“The President is playing cheap political games with Congressionally directed funds. Our cities are bringing communities together; our cities are pushing forward after fighting back a pandemic and facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, all despite recklessness and partisanship from the White House. What the Trump Administration is engaging in now is more of what we’ve seen all along: shirking responsibility and placing blame elsewhere to cover its failure,” they said.
Durkan said in a separate statement sent to The Epoch Times that the Trump administration’s efforts to defund the cities is a “gross misuse of federal power.”
“Trump, the Department of Justice, and Barr’s obsession with Seattle and me is irrational and most importantly, a huge distraction,” she said, adding: “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.”
De Blasio told reporters during a press conference that he visited the borough of Queens on Sept. 21 and “saw anything but anarchy.”
The cities were identified in a process triggered by President Donald Trump’s Sept. 2 memo directing his administration to review federal funds sent to cities that have failed to quell rioting in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Criteria for evaluating whether cities have permitted anarchy and destruction include seeing whether jurisdictions forbid police officers from intervening to restore order, whether jurisdictions slash funding to police departments, and whether jurisdictions refuse offers of assistance from the federal government.
All three cities have seen skyrocketing violent crime in recent months and cut funding to their police departments.
In Portland, near-nightly riots have taken place since May 28, apart from an approximately two-week break as wildfires burned nearby. On a number of nights, police made no arrests despite crimes being committed.
Wheeler, who also serves as the city’s police commissioner, has repeatedly rejected offers of federal help in quelling the unrest, as has Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat.
In Seattle, city officials permitted the creation and sustainment of a so-called autonomous zone that sprawled across six square blocks until several deadly shootings took place.
Durkan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, rebuffed offers of federal help to deal with the crime taking place in Seattle.
In New York City, shootings jumped in July and August to more than 200 each month as the City Council slashed some $1 billion from the police department’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget.
“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 Department of Justice stated.
Both de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, have rejected offers of federal assistance.
After the White House released Trump’s memo earlier this month, mayors promised to take Trump to court.
“The president of the United States, a New Yorker by birth, threatening to take away federal funding from this city, while we’re still in the grips of this crisis. It just makes no sense,” de Blasio told reporters at a press conference.
The mayors of Portland, Seattle, Washington, and New York City issued a joint statement saying their residents “are not President Trump’s political pawns.
“We are confronting unprecedented challenges—fighting back a pandemic and economic devastation without another stimulus. 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,” Wheeler, Durkan, Muriel Bowser, and de Blasio wrote.