Washington — The Justice Department said Monday it has identified three U.S. cities that have "permitted violence and destruction of property" and are now at risk of losing federal dollars as part of President Trump's efforts to crack down on unrest fueled by incidents of police violence against Black men and calls to defund police departments.
New York City, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, were all targeted by the Justice Department as having "refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities" in response to the violence that has erupted in the cities. The list from the department comes in response to a September 2 memorandum issued by Mr. Trump that directed the White House Office of Management and Budget to look into slashing federal funding to "anarchist jurisdictions."
"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."
As part of the rationale for identifying the three cities, the Justice Department cited an uptick in crime in each, as well as the decision by local leaders in Portland and New York City to slash their respective police departments' budget. In Seattle, the Justice Department cited the area known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, where demonstrations in support of the Black Live Matter movement gave way to violence and destruction of property this summer. The multi-block zone was dismantled in July.
Mr. Trump repeatedly urged local leaders in Portland, New York and Seattle to allow him to send federal law enforcement to assist with the protests, but each city declined the offer.
Among the criteria used by the Justice Department to evaluate the cities are whether they have forbidden the police from intervening in protests, whether they have defunded police departments and whether they have "unreasonably" refused to accept federal law enforcement assistance.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly slammed "weak mayors" for allowing "persistent and outrageous acts of violence and destruction" by "anarchists." In early September, he vowed his administration would "do everything in its power to prevent weak mayors and lawless cities from taking Federal dollars while they let anarchists harm people, burn buildings, and ruin lives and businesses."
In his memo to the federal budget office, the president said his administration would not let federal dollars "fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones."
The directive required the attorney general to publish within 14 days a list identifying "anarchist jurisdictions." The director of Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, is also required to "issue guidance to the heads of agencies on restricting eligibility of or otherwise disfavoring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of federal grants."
It's unclear what federal assistance the cities are at risk of losing.