DOJ: Portland allows 'violence' and 'destruction of property'
The U.S. Department of Justice has identified Portland, among other cities, as "a jurisdiction permitting violence and destruction of property."
In a press release on Monday, Sept. 21, the DOJ said Portland, New York and Seattle have allowed the violence and property destruction "to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities." The identification was reportedly a response to a presidential memorandum reviewing federal funding to state and local governments that allow anarchy and violence.
In response, Mayor Ted Wheeler accused President Donald Trump of "playing cheap political games" in a joint statement with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.
"This is thoroughly political and unconstitutional. The President is playing cheap political games with Congressionally directed funds. Our cities are bringing communities together; our cities are pushing forward after fighting back a pandemic and facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, all despite recklessness and partisanship from the White House. 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," the statement said.
In the DOJ release, Attorney General William Barr said the department cannot permit federal tax dollars to flow into cities that allow violence.
"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. 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 criteria for evaluating each city is listed as follows:
• Whether a jurisdiction forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction.
• Whether a jurisdiction has withdrawn law enforcement protection from a geographical area or structure that law enforcement officers are lawfully entitled to access but have been officially prevented from accessing or permitted to access only in exceptional circumstances, except when law enforcement officers are briefly withheld as a tactical decision intended to resolve safely and expeditiously a specific and ongoing unlawful incident posing an imminent threat to the safety of individuals or law enforcement officers.
• Whether a jurisdiction disempowers or defunds police departments.
• Whether a jurisdiction unreasonably refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government.
• Any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate.
The DOJ's release listed the following reasons for determining Portland as one of the jurisdictions:
• In September, Portland marked 100 consecutive nights of protests marred by vandalism, chaos and one shooting.
• Violent protesters regularly started fires, threw projectiles at law enforcement officers and destroyed property. Numerous law enforcement officers, among others, suffered injuries, according to the DOJ.
• Shootings increased by more than 140% in June and July 2020 compared to the same period last year; there has been no evidence than increase in gun violence — experienced in many cities this year — is tied to protests.
• The Portland City Council cut $15 million from the police bureau, eliminating 84 positions. The cuts included the Gun Violence Reduction Team, which investigates shootings, and several positions from the police team that responds to emergency incidents.
• In August, Portland Mayor Wheeler sent a letter to President Trump expressly rejecting the administration's offer of federal law enforcement to stop the violent protests.
New York City and Seattle were the two other cities identified in the release. The DOJ said the list could be periodically updated with new jurisdictions added.
KOIN 6 News has reached out to several city leaders for comment. So far, the Multnomah County District Attorney's office tells us they have no comment.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found here.
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