Three weeks ago, Donald Trump warned that cities which refused to restore order in its streets could risk losing billions in federal support for law enforcement. Today, the first shoe will drop on that process, and it won’t be the last. The Department of Justice will designate three cities as “anarchist jurisdictions” and start the process of cutting off funds, the New York Post reports this morning.
What’s interesting is who made the cut … and who didn’t:
New York City was among three cities labeled “anarchist jurisdictions” by the Justice Department on Sunday and targeted to lose federal money for failing to control protesters and defunding cops, The Post has learned.
Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash., were the other two cities on the list, which was approved by US Attorney General William Barr.
“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 set to be released Monday.
“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,’’ the AG added.
NBC News later confirmed the story after the DoJ made its announcement, while hinting that more cities would be named later:
On Monday, the Justice Department labeled New York City, Portland and Seattle such areas, though the department said it was still working to identify other jurisdictions that meet criteria outlined in Trump’s memo. …
As part of its rationale for labeling the cities as such, the Justice Department cited city councils voting to cut police funding, the refusal to prosecute protesters for charges like disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, the rejection of federal intervention, and law enforcement officials suffering injuries during violent outbursts.
We’ll get back to that criteria in a moment, but the inclusion of Portland and Seattle pretty much speak for themselves. While Seattle’s protests haven’t made national headlines, their cuts to police funding and the high-profile resignation of Police Chief Carmen Best make it clear that Seattle’s city council is more interested in pandering than policing. Portland, of course, has refused to prosecute looters and rioters, so much so that neighboring law-enforcement agencies now refuse to help out.
Why New York City? According to the Post, the decision to cut $1 billion from the NYPD, about 15% of its overall budget, triggered this decision. Crime has skyrocketed over the summer while police have been mainly retreating, both from fewer resources and a lack of political support. The Post reports a 177% increase in homicides in July, for instance, and another 50% increase in August.
However, NYC hasn’t had the kind of anarchistic rioting and “autonomous zone” issues as Seattle or Portland. Other cities have, however, most notably Minneapolis, which is Ground Zero for the unrest and rioting that swept the nation this year. The city council has campaigned actively to abolish its police force, and its actions have driven more than a hundred police officers out of the city. It now even has a “George Floyd Free State,” which delayed police and EMS response to an assault and robbery last week. John wrote about this an hour ago, but it bears repeating here in this context. Watch the whole video to see just how long and how bad this has been:
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS obtained surveillance video that captures the owner of a small business on Chicago Avenue being assaulted in the heart of a four-block area often referred to as an “autonomous zone” near George Floyd Square. …
The owner of Mill City Auto Body, who asked to only be identified by his first name, Dan, was knocked unconscious during an assault and robbery at his business on Aug. 5.
“I had a broken cheekbone, teeth missing, stitches in my head and I was knocked out,” Dan said. “It took police and the ambulance a very long time to get here because they had a hard time getting inside the barricades.”
So why isn’t Minneapolis included on this list? Not to run afoul of the “no snitches” warning on the barricades, but the city clearly qualifies, at least as much as Seattle. Police are refusing to enforce the law in the “free state,” perhaps for good reason, and the city and state refuse to dismantle the barricades and impose order. Given the demands from the city council, it sounds like this has already and deliberately become an “anarchist jurisdiction,” and any federal funds for law enforcement here would also be a “waste of resources.” Not only aren’t prosecutors prosecuting in Minneapolis, but the police are holding off on making arrests that would lead to prosecution — even when someone is almost beaten to death.
One has to wonder whether the potential status of Minnesota as a swing state has anything to do with the DoJ’s designation. New York, Oregon, and Washington are all deep-blue states where Republicans and Donald Trump don’t have a prayer of winning in November. Minnesota, on the other hand, looks like it could be winnable, which might be why the DoJ is sparing Minneapolis from a status change before the election. If so, that’s a bad look — and worse yet, the DoJ is passing up an opportunity to highlight the anarchy that’s still ongoing in Minneapolis.
One last thought, too. If the problem in these cities is reduction of policing resources, is this the right time to yank back on federal programs designed to enhance law enforcement? In terms of influence and consequences it makes sense — it certainly raises the stakes, anyway — but a follow-through on this threat will make the problems worse, and it might allow local governments to pass the political buck for them to Washington as well.