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  • US Attorney General William Barr meets with federal officials and stakeholders at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia during a panel discussion in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. September 21, 2020.

    US Attorney General William Barr meets with federal officials and stakeholders at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia during a panel discussion in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. September 21, 2020. | Photo: EFE/EPA/John Amis

Published 21 September 2020
Opinion

The U.S. Department of Justice threatened the three U.S. cities Monday, claiming it would revoke federal funding given the "anarchy and violence" on their streets. 

While U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement, "We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hands in the balance," the three Democratic mayors responded in a joint statement that the Trump administration is playing politics and that withholding federal funds would be illegal.

"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," the three mayors said.

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While many cities in the United States, including these three, have experienced significant unrest since the murder of George Floyd in May, including police-induced violence and property damage, the federal government has mounted a campaign to blame the Democrats for much of the disorder it has engendered through sending in federal agents to cities nationwide and encouraging federal prosecutors to levy draconian charges on protesters.

This latest escalation to curb the nationwide protests comes after Trump's released a memo last month laying out the criteria for when to review funding for states and cities "permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction." Last week, Barr urged federal prosecutors to bring sedition charges against protesters who burned buildings or engaged in violent activity. 

In all three cities, local leadership has prevented federal law enforcement from entering and restoring order during protests. All have furthermore considered proposals to defund the police or prevent the police from intervening in specific scenarios. 
 
In response to the Justice Department's designation of the three cities as "anarchist jurisdictions," New York City Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson said, "The president does not have the authority to change the will of Congress," promising legal action if the Trump administration decides to cut off the funds.

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