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DOJ Targets Portland, NYC, and Seattle for Cuts to Funding Because of Civil Unrest

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DOJ Targets Portland, NYC, and Seattle for Cuts to Funding Because of Civil Unrest

2020-09-22 14:44:03

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Black Lives Matter protest in Portland (Image source: Screenshot)

George Floyd died at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May, four months ago. However, protests that were ticked off by his death continue. For many, they see it as a battle that has gone on a lifetime and not just four months. The Justice Department targeted three cities where the protests are particularly more violent, for possible cuts in federal funding.

The DOJ called out Portland, New York City, and Seattle as cities "that have permitted violence and destruction of property," Earlier this month, Donald Trump issued a memorandum about those same cities.

"We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted," said Attorney General William Barr in a statement. "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 Trump administration tried similar action regarding immigration policies in New York City and other jurisdictions. A federal appeals court passed down a ruling that the administration's attempt violated the separation of powers, citing the Constitution.

The Trump administration has sent federal law enforcement to help in some of the cities, only to find it made tensions worse and incited more violence by the rioters.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D), and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) issued a joint statement that said the president "is playing cheap political games with congressionally-directed funds. ... 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."

In addition to the three cities mentioned by the DOJ, Trump's memorandum also included Washington, D.C. It fired criticism at Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), alleging he allowed "rioters and anarchists to engage in violence and destruction."

The administration has said it's considering adding other cities to the memorandum if officers are withdrawn from problem areas or if a city leader "disempowers or defends" the police or "unreasonably refuses" to accept help from federal law enforcement.

The DOJ may add cities as well based on "any other related factors the attorney general deems appropriate," according to the announcement.

This action by the Justice Department follows Barr urging federal prosecutors to aggressively go after protesters committing violence. In a conference call, he told prosecutors that they should consider sections of a rarely used law against sedition if they see evidence that matches the language used that criminalizes the use of force to oppose the government. 

Trump and Barr are walking a thin line with the election just weeks away. While they are appeasing the president's supporters, they need to be sure they are not alienating citizens in the jurisdictions they are targeting and also need to be sure that in the end, the violence is cleared up. It won't look good for Trump if there is still widespread racial unrest and violence on election day. It will urge his supporters to throw a vote to him but not others.

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