The DOJ says the three cities have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.
The list, which will be updated, was published on DOJ's website Monday in response to President Donald Trump's memorandum of September 2, 2020, entitled "Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities."
It is a step towards denying federal funding to such cities.
"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. "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."
Mayor Bill de Blasio has threatened legal action if the president pursues defunding.
"It makes no sense," he said. "By the way, your words don't carry much weight on this topic because the Supreme Court has spoken. The president of the United States can't interfere with federal funding for cities and states just because he feels like it. We have laws in this country. So if you persist and trying to deny the funding, we will see you in court. And once again, we will beat you in court."
On Monday, the mayor responded to the designation, after visiting a school in Elmhurst, Queens, to mark the first day of in-person learning.
"I saw peace, tranquility," he said. "I saw anything but anarchy."
He called it "just another one of President Trump's games" and said it's "part of his campaign strategy." The mayor added that it was "insulting to the people of New York City" and called it "unconstitutional."
De Blasio joined Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan in releasing a joint statement in response to Trump's threat to revoke federal funding.
"This is thoroughly political and unconstitutional," the said, "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."
Governor Andrew Cuomo also weighed in, calling it a "continuation of (Trump's) political theme, that he is the law and order candidate."
"I understand the politics, but when you try to manipulate government agencies to play politics, which is what the Trump administration has done from day one," he said, "A couple years ago they said sanctuary cities would not get criminal justice money. We said it was illegal and unconstitutional, we sued them, and we won. Federal court said they could not take the federal money that was appropriated by Congress."
He said that Trump does not have control over such funds.
"The president can't supersede the law and say, I'm going to make those funds basically discretionary funds, which is what he would have to do, basically say, I control all federal funding," he said. "He doesn't control all federal funding. The federal law controls federal funding, and the federal law is very specific."
New York Attorney General Letitia James also released a statement, saying the state is gearing up for a legal fight.
"As the nation moves towards 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 and as tens of millions remain out of work, President Trump is trying to distract the American people from his failures as a leader and is using the last few months of his presidency to sow more chaos, more hatred, and more fear," she said. "This designation is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to scare Americans into voting for a commander-in-chief who is actually incapable of commanding our nation. President Trump failed to listen to scientists, failed to steer our economy through this pandemic, and has repeatedly failed to bring our nation together. The president should be prepared to defend this illegal order in court, which hypocritically lays the groundwork to defund New York and the very types of law enforcement President Trump pretends to care about. We have beat the president and the illegal actions of his DOJ in court before and have no doubt we will beat them again."
The criteria for evaluating each city is as follows:
- Whether a jurisdiction forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction.
- Whether a jurisdiction has withdrawn law enforcement protection from a geographical area or structure that law enforcement officers are lawfully entitled to access but have been officially prevented from accessing or permitted to access only in exceptional circumstances, except when law enforcement officers are briefly withheld as a tactical decision intended to resolve safely and expeditiously a specific and ongoing unlawful incident posing an imminent threat to the safety of individuals or law enforcement officers.
- Whether a jurisdiction disempowers or defunds police departments.
- Whether a jurisdiction unreasonably refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government.
- Any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate.
New York City
- Shootings in New York City have been on the rise since looting and protests began on or about May 28, 2020. For July 2020, shootings increased from 88 to 244, an increase of 177% over July 2019. In August 2020, shootings increased from 91 to 242, a 166% increase over August 2019.
- While the city faced increased unrest, gun violence, and property damage, the New York City Council cut $1 billion from NYPD's FY21 budget.
- 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.
- 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.
- Both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo have forcefully rejected federal law enforcement support.
- This month, Portland marked 100 consecutive nights of protests marred by vandalism, chaos, and even killing.
- Those bent on violence regularly started fires, threw projectiles at law enforcement officers, and destroyed property. Numerous law enforcement officers, among others, suffered injury.
- Shootings increased by more than 140% in June and July 2020 compared to the same period last year.
- In the midst of this violence, the Portland City Council cut $15 million from the police bureau, eliminating 84 positions. 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 Wheeler sent a letter to President Trump expressly rejecting the Administration's offer of federal law enforcement to stop the violent protests.
- For nearly a month, starting in June, the City of 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 precluded from entering the territory. The Seattle Police Department was ordered to abandon their precinct within the CHOP.
- Person-related crime in the CHOP increased 525% from the same period of time in the same area the year before, including by Mayor Durkan's own count "two additional homicides, 6 additional robberies, and 16 additional aggravated assaults (to include 2 additional non-fatal shootings)."
- The CHOP was allowed to stand for nearly a month, during which time two teenagers were shot and killed in the zone.
- The Seattle City Council, Mayor Durkan, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee publicly rejected federal involvement in law enforcement activities within the city of Seattle.
Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo said everything Trump could do in his power to hurt New York City, he has done.
The $7 billion in federal dollars for New York City goes to fund the following programs and departments:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families - $1.3 Billion
- Title I Education - $705 million
- Child Care and Development Block - $499 million
- Section 8 - $437 million
- Medical Assistance Program - $209 million
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