Portland, Seattle, New York file federal lawsuit over ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ designation

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New York, Portland and Seattle sued the Trump administration Thursday to stop the Justice Department from pulling funding from those cities because they “permit anarchy.”

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, argues that the Justice Department doesn’t have the authority to withhold federal funds without Congress’s approval.

They also argue that Attorney General William P. Barr is using a vague standard to declare the cities as “anarchist jurisdictions.”

Mr. Barr moved to revoke funding last month because of the unchecked rioting and looting occurring in the Democrat-controlled cities.

The cities pushed back in the lawsuit, calling the Trump administration of engaging in “lawless behavior.”

“It is the Defendants, not the Cities, who are engaging in lawless behavior and threatening the democratic order established by the Framers,” the lawsuit said.

The anarchist jurisdiction label is “an oxymoronic designation without precedent in American jurisprudence,” the states argued in the lawsuit. They have asked a federal judge to invalidate the designation.

“Seattle and people across America need help fighting a pandemic that has claimed over 220,000 American lives, fixing an economic crisis that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans unemployed, and bringing America together during this civil rights reckoning,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Instead, the President chooses to ignore science, divide Americans, and threaten the lifeline for many struggling in this time.”

Last month, the Justice Department declared the three cities “anarchist jurisdictions,” saying they allowed violence and mayhem to persist during racial justice protests. The move is the first step to revoking federal funding.

Administration officials have weighed cutting millions of dollars for COVID-19 and other health programs, according to published reports. Nearly 200 health programs would be slashed if the Trump administration moves forward.

The designation of the cities, which are all led by Democrats, was a response to President Trump’s September order to cut off federal aid in places with unchecked rioting.

By labeling the cities “anarchist jurisdictions,” Mr. Barr escalated Mr. Trump’s conflict with the Democratic leaders. Mr. Trump has been campaigning on a law-and-order platform while blasting Democrats for the rising crime and violence.

Much of the crime and looting plaguing the cities has been increasing since late May, when George Floyd, a Black man, died while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Mr. Barr said the three cities he singled out have “refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.”

“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,” Mr. Barr said.

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