The North Star has dropped its paywall during this COVID-19 crisis so that pertinent information and analysis is available to everyone during this time. This is only possible because of the generous support of our members. We rely on these funds to pay our staff to continue to provide high-quality content. If you are able to support, we invite you to do so here.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has listed New York City, Seattle and Portland as “anarchist jurisdictions” because these cities “have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.”
The DOJ’s statement comes after President Donald Trump’s memorandum from Sept. 2, announcing his administration would review and could potentially deny any state funding to cities that permitted anarchy, violence and destruction.
“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 P. Barr said in the 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 criteria for evaluating each “anarchist” jurisdiction, according to the DOJ, are:
1. Whether a jurisdiction forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction.
2. Whether a jurisdiction has withdrawn law enforcement protection from a geographical area or structure that law enforcement officers are lawfully entitled to access but have been officially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.
3. Whether a jurisdiction disempowers or defunds police departments.
4. Whether a jurisdiction unreasonably refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government.
5. Any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate.
The statement also listed several reasons why they listed the cities as “anarchist” jurisdictions, noting the anti-racism protests that have taken place in these cities these past few months.
Tensions Between Democratic Mayors and the Trump Administration Grows
This move only increases tension between the Trump administration and cities led by Democratic mayors, as demonstrations continue following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people killed by police violence.
During a press conference on Sept. 21, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he saw “anything but anarchy.”
“This is just one of President Trump’s games,” de Blasio said, according to Bloomberg. “It’s thoroughly political, it’s part of his campaign strategy. It makes no sense. It’s not based on the facts in the least. It’s insulting to the people of New York City, and his effort to withhold our funding is unconstitutional.”
Following Trump’s executive order earlier this month, the mayors from the three “anarchist” jurisdictions wrote a statement in response to the Trump administration’s plan to revoke federal funding from the cities.
"We are confronting unprecedented challenges – fighting back a pandemic and economic devastation without another stimulus. Now, instead of leadership from the White House, we are faced with new attacks that are unlawful and will undoubtedly be defeated in court," the mayors said. "President Trump needs to wake up to the reality facing our cities – and our entire country – and realize he is not above the law."