Seattle, WA – The cities of Portland, Seattle, and New York filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration on Thursday in response to the federal government designating those areas as “anarchist jurisdictions.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) assigned the “anarchist jurisdiction” label to the three cities in September after determining that city officials in those areas had “refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities” and allowed violence and destruction of property to continue.
The designation could result in the loss of billions of dollars’ worth of federal funding for all three cities, WNBC reported.
The cities teamed up to file the 51-page lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Oct. 22.
“It’s morally wrong, it’s legally unacceptable, it’s unconstitutional and we’re going to fight it,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told WABC. “We will beat them in court.”
New York City Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson said the lawsuit deals with three factors.
Johnson argued that the Trump Administration was “stepping into the congressional space” by trying to withhold federal funding from the cities, WABC reported.
“Congress controls the power of the purse, not the Trump administration,” he said.
“Second, they’re moving in a way that is arbitrary and capricious,” Johnson alleged. “There is no basis in law, there is no basis in fact, for this anarchist determination, and yet they are going to use it to determine who does and who does not get federal funding.”
He argued that the designation and potential withholding of funds also “violates federalism,” WABC reported.
“They are trying to step into a space that is uniquely for the cities to decide – how we decide to police our streets, how we decide to spend our funds,” Johnson said.
The cities have asked the court to remove the “anarchist jurisdiction” designations from Portland, Seattle, and New York City, and requested that the DOJ Office of Management and Budget be blocked from following through with plans to withhold federal funds, WABC reported.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement that the designations and corresponding threats to withhold federal money “are unlawful and an abuse of federal power.”
“It’s immoral, unconstitutional, and shameful that we are forced to expend any resources on this political theater,” Durkan declared.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement that President Trump had “singled out three progressive cities” and “threatened” them, WABC reported.
“These threats include restricting federal funds for coronavirus relief, funds for HIV treatment, and funds for newborn screenings,” Wheeler said. “That’s why Portland, Seattle and New York will fight this illegal designation to preserve federal investments designed to help our most vulnerable residents.”
The DOJ announced on Sept. 21 that the three cities met the criteria set forth in President Donald Trump’s “Memorandum on Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence, and Destruction in American Cities,” which he issued on Sept. 2.
The DOJ concluded that Portland, Seattle, and New York City were placed on the list after being evaluated on multiple facets.
“The Department of Justice is continuing to work to identify jurisdictions that meet the criteria set out in the President’s Memorandum and will periodically update the list of selected jurisdictions as required therein,” the DOJ noted.
In the DOJ press release, Attorney General William Barr blasted city leaders from tying law enforcement’s hands during the months of violent rioting that have occurred in the three “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,” 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,” Barr wrote.
Trump specifically admonished the cities of New York, Seattle, Portland, and Washington D.C. in the five-page memo, and said government officials had contributed “to the violence and destruction in their jurisdictions by failing to enforce the law, disempowering and significantly defunding their police departments, and refusing to accept offers of Federal law enforcement assistance.”
Due to city leaders’ lackadaisical approach in handling the violent rioters, “persistent and outrageous acts of violence and destruction have continued unabated” over the course of the past several months, the President said.
Trump blasted Seattle for allowing “anarchists and rioters” to take over six square blocks for over three weeks earlier this summer in order to establish their so-called Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) “autonomous zone.”
“Notwithstanding the fact that law-abiding citizens live and work in the invaded area, the local government effectively endorsed this lawlessness and taking of property by, among other things, abandoning the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct building and forbidding the police force from intervening to restore order,” the President wrote.
Durkan allowed the chaos to continue – at one point describing the hostile takeover as the “summer of love” – until two teens were fatally shot and at least two others were wounded.
Riots have continued since the CHOP was dismantled, injuring dozens of Seattle police officers and leaving multiple vehicles and businesses damaged or destroyed.
The President also called out Portland city leaders for allowing rioters to destroy the downtown area for over 100 consecutive nights.
“They have attacked Federal law enforcement personnel protecting the Federal courthouse with Molotov cocktails, mortar-style fireworks, hard projectiles, and lasers that can cause permanent blindness,” Trump said in the memo.
At least 140 federal officers had been injured in the attacks as of late September.
“For much of this period, State and local officials in Portland have taken insufficient steps to protect the Federal courthouse, and initially rejected offers of Federal law enforcement assistance,” the President added.
New York City officials “allowed looting to take place for over a week” in late May and early June, “resulting in damage to an estimated 450 businesses,” Trump wrote.
There have been 896 shootings in New York this year as of Aug. 16 – up from 492 shootings during the same period one year ago.
One of the victims was a one-year-old child.
“Shootings have been rising in recent weeks, and police reported 244 shootings last month compared to 88 in July 2019 — a 177 percent increase,” Trump noted earlier in September. “While violence has surged, arrests have plummeted.”
Despite the sharp increase in violent crime, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council opted to defund the city’s police force by a staggering $1 billion, resulting in the loss of 1,163 law enforcement positions as well as other cutbacks.
The department’s plainclothes Anti-Crime Unit has also been disbanded.
“I have offered to provide Federal law enforcement assistance, but both Mayor de Blasio and [New York] Governor Andrew Cuomo have rejected my offer,” President Trump said.
The President noted that “hundreds of billions” in taxpayer dollars are provided to states and localities by the federal government every year.
“These funds have been collected from American taxpayers who entrusted their money to the Federal Government to serve our communities and our citizens,” he wrote. “My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.”
Trump said he ordered the review in order to “safeguard” those tax dollars to ensure they are not being “wasted nor spent in a manner that directly violates our Government’s promise to protect life, liberty, and property,” by cities that “permit anarchy, violence, and destruction.”
Included in the definition are jurisdictions that forbid law enforcement “from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction,” according to the President.
Jurisdictions that have “withdrawn law enforcement protections” from areas or buildings where they are “lawfully entitled to access” may also qualify, as well as areas that have defunded or disempowered their law enforcement departments, the memo read.
Cities that “unreasonably” refuse to accept the federal government’s offers of law enforcement assistance may also be deemed as “anarchist jurisdictions.”
President Trump noted that the Attorney General’s Office may consider “other related factors” as it deems appropriate.
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought praised the President’s directive to review way cities are using taxpayer dollars.
“American taxpayers who fund the great programs that our cities rely on deserve to be protected by their local city officials,” Vought told the New York Post. “We are taking action by exploring all options to ensure federal resources flowing to lawless cities aren’t being squandered.”
The budget director said that the “lack of response” from some city leaders qualifies as “a dereliction of duty.”
“Our men and women in blue cannot be handcuffed by local leadership in their efforts to respond to riots and protect their fellow citizens,” Vought added.