In an effort to convince voters that he is the “law and order” president, President Donald Trump on Monday (September 21) sent a memo to The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) instructing them to target cities his administration deems “anarchist jurisdictions” due to ongoing protests against systemic racism and police violence. Trump told Attorney General William Barr to “review federal funding for local governments in places where violence or vandalism has occurred during protests,” NBC News reports.
The memo directed Barr, Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to determine which cities “have permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities.”
As a result, the DOJ on Monday targeted New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle as such jurisdictions. The agency said it is still working to identify more cities to add to the list.
Barr said in a statement accompanying the announcement: “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.”
In what could only be described as depraved mimicry, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis also announced on Monday that state officials plan to crack down on what DeSantis referred to as “disorderly assemblies,” and saying that any calls to defund law enforcement would be met with the same defunding Trump seeks at the federal level.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that DeSantis, flanked by police officers and top Republicans in the state, said that the proposal, “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” would be a “focal point” of the state’s next legislative session. The session is expected to begin in March 2021.
According to the Tampa Bay Times:
DeSantis also attacked calls to “defund” the police, saying any municipality that moves to do so would lose any state funding. The term “defund the police” can mean many different things, including redirecting money for police departments to other governmental agencies for housing, mental health interventions and other social services.
“I think it’s important that every single person running for office in the state of Florida this year, whether you’re running for the House, whether you’re running for the Senate, you have an obligation to let the voters know where you stand on this bill,” DeSantis said at his press conference. “Are you going to stand with law and order and safe communities, or are you going to stand with the mob?”
On the federal front, Barr decided which cities to target as “anarchist jurisdictions” based on “city councils’ voting to cut police funding, the refusal to prosecute protesters on charges like disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, the rejection of federal intervention, and injuries suffered by law enforcement officials during violent outbursts,” NBC reports.
A rep from New York City’s Independent Budget Office spoke to Vice News and said that that losing aid would significantly impact the city. “In recent years, the city has received upwards of $7 billion annually in federal aid,” communications director Doug Turetsky told Vice. “Losing that aid, including about $150 million that supports counter-terrorism work by the NYPD, would be more than just a blow to the city—it would have economic and other consequences regionally and even nationally.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement obtained by NBC that Trump is “using the last few months of his presidency to sow more chaos, more hatred, and more fear.” She vowed to see the administration in court should they actually withhold funding to the city and state.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, posted a statement on Monday in response to Trump’s threat. “This illegal memorandum is a sham,” he said. “It is just the latest baseless, petty and divisive move by President Trump to distract from his abject failure to protect Americans from COVID-19.”
“With more than 185,000 lives lost on his watch, we won’t forget,” Inslee continued. “The president cannot and will not defund us. He is not a dictator and laws still apply to him. While we’re calling our lawyers, he should call his public health experts. This will not stand.”