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DOJ designates New York, Portland and Seattle as 'anarchist jurisdictions'

Posted at 9:37 AM, Sep 21, 2020

The Department of Justice on Monday identified New York City, Portland and Seattle as cities that have allowed "violence and destruction of property to persist," as outlined in a presidential memorandum that could restrict access to federal funding.

Earlier in September, President Donald Trump issued the Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities.

The measure allows the DOJ to target city governments that the agency believes has not taken steps to mitigate widespread criminal activity.

So-called "anarchist jurisdictions" that meet the DOJ's criteria are subject to a 30-day review by the director of the Office of Management and Budget, who will issue guidance on restricting eligibility for federal grants, according to the presidential memorandum.

"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 Monday 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 New York City, the DOJ cited a monthslong spike in gun violence in conjunction with the City Council's approval of a fiscal budget that reallocated $1 billion from the NYPD toward community and youth programming. The funding changes will begin in 2021.

"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 DOJ said in its statement.

The Justice Department also cited the refusal of city district attorneys to prosecute certain charges related to Black Lives Matter protests that have been ongoing since the May 25 death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

"Both [New York City] Mayor [Bill] de Blasio and Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo have forcefully rejected federal law enforcement support," the DOJ concluded in its statement.

The loss of federal funding would be a crippling blow to cash-strapped New York City, which lost $9 billion in revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic. The city is currently facing a $1 billion budget deficit that could result in as many as 22,000 municipal layoffs and furloughs in October.

Requests for comment from the offices of de Blasio and Cuomo were not immediately returned.

Seattle and Portland have also seen significant unrest in recent months since the death of George Floyd. In June, protesters in Seattle occupried a small area of the city of several weeks and vandalized an abandoned police precinct. Portland saw more than 100 consecutive days of protests against systemic racism and police brutality, some of which grew violent.

For a full list of the Justice Department's criteria for "anarchist jurisdictions," click here.

This story was originally published by Lauren Cook on WPIX in New York.