The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday that three U.S. cities have "permitted violence and destruction of property" to persist and threatened to cut federal funding if they don't take measures to restore law and order.
According to a news release, New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, risk the loss of funding.
"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," said Attorney General William Barr.
"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," Barr said.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan responded to the DOJ statement.
"This is thoroughly political and unconstitutional. The president is playing cheap political games with the congressionally directed funds," the three said in a joint statement. "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."
They accused the Trump administration of being reckless and "shirking responsibility and placing blame elsewhere to cover its failure."
The DOJ list was in response to a Sept. 2 memo issued by the White House which directed the Office of Management and Budget to look into cutting federal funding to "anarchist jurisdictions."
The Department of Justice said more cities could be added to the list.
Protests erupted in cities across the United States following the May 25 death of George Floyd, an African American man, in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
According to the DOJ, New York City saw a 177% increase in shootings in July 2020 compared to July 2019. At the same time, the city cut $1 billion from its police department budget, the statement said.
Portland saw more than three months straight of violent protests and a 140% increase in shootings in June and July, compared to the same period last year, the DOJ said. During that time, the city cut police funding, and Wheeler, the city’s mayor, refused the Trump administration’s offer to provide federal law enforcement to help curb the violence, according to the DOJ.
Officials in Seattle allowed protesters to set up an "autonomous" zone in the downtown area, which stood for a month. During that time, crime rose 525%, according to the DOJ, and two teenagers were shot to death. The mayor and governor refused federal help, the DOJ said.
In early September, Trump said his administration would "do everything in its power to prevent weak mayors and lawless cities from taking federal dollars while they let anarchists harm people, burn buildings, and ruin lives and businesses."
It is not clear what federal funding could be withheld.