The Justice Department looked at possible criminal or civil charges against local officials in Portland, Oregon, after clashes between federal law enforcement and violent protesters.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday identified New York City, Portland and Washington, D.C., as “local governments that are permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction in American cities,” a move that comes as the federal government continues to take a tough stance against localized rioting in some areas of the country.
President Trump earlier this month targeted those three cities, as well as Seattle, in a memo to Attorney General William Barr and the Office of Management and Budget asking for a review of federal funding to “anarchist” jurisdictions. The DOJ memo Monday essentially serves as notice that New York City, Portland and D.C. meet the criteria Trump set out for potential defunding.
It’s unclear whether and how much funding may eventually be withdrawn from the cities and if such a move would be legal, as it would likely be challenged in the courts.
“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 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.”
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has explicitly condemned the periodic rioting in her city but has at times struggled to keep it under control. She’s blamed outside agitators for fomenting the unrest.
“There are people who come from stretches of Maryland and Virginia. People who come from Portland and Minneapolis,” she said of individuals arrested for riot-related activity. “The people quoted about the organized protests were from Minneapolis and Portland.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has repeatedly called on the violence in his city to end all the way back to May, but to little effect. He’s also limited the tactics Portland police officers can take to control violent crowds, including banning the use of tear gas. The DOJ noted that Portland has now surpassed 100 consecutive nights of unrest.
New York City has had some of the same politically motivated unrest as D.C. and Portland, but the attorney general’s memo largely cites shootings and other crime, while the New York Police Department’s budget has been cut, as the reason for its inclusion on the list.
Barr’s memo cited whether “a jurisdiction forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction,” whether ” jurisdiction has withdrawn law enforcement protection from a geographical area or structure,” whether police departments are being defunded and refusal of federal law enforcement help as the evaluating criteria for the list.
Fox News’ Alex Pappas contributed to this report.