Justice Department Slams New York City, Portland, Seattle for 'Permitting Anarchy'

Police Respond To Continued Protests In Portland
A rioter in Portland in 2020 / Getty Images
September 21, 2020

The Justice Department on Monday called out local governments in New York City, Portland, and Seattle for failing to curb criminal activity and "permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction" during a wave of anti-police demonstrations this summer. 

According to the Justice Department’s press release, the three cities failed to protect citizens’ safety and property and refused to support their police departments’ efforts to curb "widespread or sustained violence and destruction" after demonstrations began in late May. The department's list follows President Donald Trump’s push to cut federal funding from cities that allowed and enabled riots to persist throughout the summer, as expressed in a Sept. 2 memorandum

Attorney General William Barr said federal dollars should not be "wasted" on state and local governments that cannot protect citizens' lives and property. 

"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. "We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance." 

New York City, Portland, and Seattle all experienced upticks in crimes corresponding with the outbreak of violent demonstrations, the Justice Department noted in the press release—and, at the same time, all three cities moved forward with legislation to defund their police departments. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) approved a $1 billion NYPD budget cut in June, the same month that the Portland city council passed a $15 million police department budget cut. Seattle City Council passed a series of police department budget cuts in August, which led Carmen Best, the city’s first black female police chief, to resign

The Justice Department said that it would continue to identify other jurisdictions that failed to stymie destructive demonstrations this summer.

An Axios report released last week found that the first two weeks of protests alone cost insurance agencies up to $2 billion, more than any other event of civil unrest in U.S. history. Protests began in late May following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.