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DOJ: NYC, Portland and Seattle are permitting 'anarchy' and violence; AG Barr seeks to strip funding

DOJ: NYC, Portland and Seattle are permitting 'anarchy' and violence; AG Barr seeks to strip funding

A sign reads "Capitol Hill Occupied Protest" in an area that has been referred to by protesters by that name as well as "Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, on June 14, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. Black Lives Matter protesters have continued demonstrating in what was first referred to as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, which encompasses several blocks around the Seattle Police Departments vacated East Precinct, but what protesters are now calling the "Capitol Hill Organized Protest." | David Ryder/Getty Image

The U.S. Justice Department said Monday that New York City, Portland and Seattle are jurisdictions that permit “anarchy” and violence and the Trump administration formally threatened to strip federal funding from those Democrat-controlled cities. 

The mayors of those three cities in New York, Oregon and Washington state have accused the Republican president of playing political games and acting unconstitutionally. 

In a statement, the department warned that amid the national unrest following the death of George Floyd on May 25, those three cities “have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.” The looting, vandalism and torching of housing developments and small businesses is expected to cost well over $1 billion to $2 billion, according to Axios

Those three cities were listed on the Justice Department’s website following the president's Sept. 2 memorandum that called for a review of state and local recipients of federal funding that are “permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction in American cities.” 

The Justice Department is still evaluating to see if other cities should be added to the list. 

“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.”

The mayors of the three cities issued a joint statement on Monday, calling the Justice Department’s threat “thoroughly political and unconstitutional.”

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“The President is playing cheap political games with Congressionally directed funds,” the statement reads. 

“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." 

Portland has been marred by violent riots, arson attacks, and vandalism for over 100 days. It's also where an Antifa/BLM rioter murdered Trump supporter Aaron “Jay” Danielson.  

Vandals in Portland have started fires, thrown projectiles at law enforcement officers and even destroyed property

In dealing with rioters over the summer, several Portland law enforcement officers suffered injuries.  

The Justice Department states that shootings in the city increased by over 140% in June and July compared to the same period in 2019. 

“In the midst of this violence, the Portland City Council cut $15 million from the police bureau, eliminating 84 positions,” the department’s statement explains. “Crucially, the cuts included the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which investigates shootings, and several positions from the police team that responds to emergency incidents.”

In August, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler sent a letter to the president rejecting the offer to send federal law enforcement to stop the violent riots. Wheeler accused Trump of engaging in “politics of division and demagoguery.”

In Seattle, the Justice Department says that for nearly a month beginning in June, the city government “permitted anarchists and activists to seize six square blocks of the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.” 

The movement was known as “CHOP” after previously being called “CHAZ” — Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

The Justice Department complained that law enforcement officials nor firefighters were allowed into the zone as the Seattle Police Department “was ordered to abandon their precinct within the CHOP.”

According to the department, person-related crime in CHOP increased 525% from the same period in the same area the year before.

“The CHOP was allowed to stand for nearly a month, during which time two teenagers were shot and killed in the zone,” the Justice Department argues. “The Seattle City Council, Mayor [Jenny] Durkan, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee publicly rejected federal involvement in law enforcement activities within the city of Seattle.”

In New York City, the agency states that shootings have been on the rise since looting and protests began around May 28.

According to the Justice Department, shootings in New York City increased from 88 in July 2019 to 244 in July 2020. As for August, shootings jumped from 91 in 2019 to 242 in 2020.

The Trump administration criticized the New York City Council for cutting $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s fiscal year 2021 budget, which it claims led to the cancellation of new police recruiting classes and cut overtime spending. 

The Justice Department also criticized the Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn district attorneys who have declined to prosecute many protest-related charges.

In July, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked Trump not to send federal law enforcement officials in response to the increase in crime in the city. 

Earlier this month after Trump issued his memorandum, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials vowed to sue the federal government if the Trump administration withholds federal funding. 

The New York Times reported last week that Attorney General Barr asked the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to explore whether Seattle Mayor Durkan could be charged criminally in response to the city’s failure to disperse the Capitol Hill Organized Protest that led to two fatal shootings. A department spokesperson denied the claim in a statement to the newspaper.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Brian T. Moran, told Fox News that "at no time has anyone at the Department communicated to me that Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is, was or should be charged with any federal crime” related to CHOP. 

"As U.S. Attorney I would be aware of such an investigation," he said.

In a statement last week, Durkan said that as a former U.S. attorney, she “took an oath of office to protect the Constitution and the rule of law.”

“That is the bedrock of our country and why the Department of Justice cannot become a political weapon operated at the behest of the President to target those who have spoken out against this administration’s actions,” she argued. “That is an act of tyranny, not of democracy.”

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