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Justice Department tags NYC, Portland, Seattle as cities permitting violence and destruction

Cities being put on the DOJ list could see their flow of federal funds jeopardized

Published: September 21, 2020 10:31am

Updated: September 21, 2020 1:01pm

The Justice Department on Monday identified New York City, Portland and Seattle as jurisdictions that have allowed violence and destruction of property to persist without taking "reasonable measures" to stop criminal activity. 

In early September, President Trump issued a memorandum calling into question the continued funding of state and local governments that are permitting "anarchy, violence, and destruction in American cities."

Being included by the department on the list could endanger the flow of taxpayer dollars to a city or entity that Justice officials have determined is failing to prioritize the safety and well being of its residents.

The criteria for evaluating a city's performance includes whether the jurisdiction has forbid police forces from intervening during incidents of widespread destruction and violence, whether a jurisdiction defunds its police department, whether a jurisdiction refuses to accept offers of assistance from the federal government, or any other fact that Attorney General William Barr deems appropriate to consider.

“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. “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.”

Following the May 25 death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, the nation saw a summer of intense and widespread protests primarily centering on racial justice and police brutality in America. In some large American cities, those peaceful protests quickly devolved into nights of violent clashes with police officers, and rampant looting of popular shopping centers as well as smaller independently owned businesses. In some cities, the clashes and crime sprees have led to fatal shootings and arson. 

In its statement, the Justice Department identified New York City's shooting rate, which increased 166% from August of 2019 to the same month this year, in addition to the city council's decision to slash $1 billion from the NYPD's 2021 budget, and Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's continued rejection of support from federal law enforcement.

Portland, Oregon, according to DOJ, has had 100 consecutive nights of violent and destructive protests, a 140% jump in its shooting rate from summer 2019 to 2020, and is under the control of Mayor Ted Wheeler who has refused the administration's continued offers to send in federal law enforcement to quell the violence.

Finally, earlier this summer, officials in Seattle "permitted anarchists and activists to seize six square blocks of the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, naming their new enclave the 'Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone' (CHAZ) and then the 'Capitol Hill Occupied Protest' (CHOP)."

Law enforcement and fire fighters were not allowed inside the autonomous zone and the Seattle Police Department was told to evacuate its precinct that was located inside the CHOP. 

The autonomous zone was permitted to exist for almost a month, during which two teenagers were shot and killed inside the blocked off area. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, and Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, repeatedly rejected the help and involvement of federal law enforcements officers to aid in keeping Seattle safe. 

DOJ is continuing to work to identify jurisdictions that meet the criteria outlined in the President's Memorandum, and will continue updating the list periodically. 

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