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Dept. of Justice says Seattle, Portland, NYC are 'permitting violence and destruction of property'

The DOJ cited the former CHOP/CHAZ protest zone in Capitol Hill as a key reason for Seattle being identified as one of three U.S. cities permitting violence.

SEATTLE — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) identified Seattle, Portland, and New York City as three jurisdictions that have "permitted violence and destruction of property."

According to the DOJ, the cities have "refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities."

The announcement comes in response to a Sept. 2 memorandum from President Donald Trump, which ordered his administration to review federal funding for state and local governments that have seen ongoing violence and protests where the administration said officials have refused help from the federal government.

The DOJ criteria for "anarchistic" cities includes: if a jurisdiction "forbids the police force from intervening to restore order amid widespread or sustained violence or destruction," whether cities "disempowers or defunds police departments" and whether cities "unreasonably refuses to accept offers of law enforcement assistance from the Federal Government. The DOJ also listed a vague criteria that simply says it would consider "any other related factors the Attorney General deems appropriate," as part of the identification process.

Seattle, according to the DOJ, meets the criteria for the following reasons:

  • For nearly a month, starting in June, the City of Seattle permitted anarchists and activists to seize six square blocks of the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, naming their new enclave the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ) and then the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” (CHOP).
  • Law enforcement and firefighters were precluded from entering the territory. The Seattle Police Department was ordered to abandon their precinct within the CHOP.
  • Person-related crime in the CHOP increased 525% from the same period of time in the same area the year before, including by Mayor Durkan’s own count “two additional homicides, 6 additional robberies, and 16 additional aggravated assaults (to include 2 additional non-fatal shootings).”
  • The CHOP was allowed to stand for nearly a month, during which time two teenagers were shot and killed in the zone.
  • The Seattle City Council, Mayor Durkan, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee publicly rejected federal involvement in law enforcement activities within the city of Seattle.

“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 P. 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.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan released the following statement Monday:

"The Trump administration’s threats to defund Seattle, Portland, and New York are a gross misuse of federal power and blatantly unlawful. Trump, the Department of Justice, and Barr’s obsession with Seattle and me is irrational and most importantly, a huge distraction.

"In Seattle, we’ll remain focused on addressing the four crises in front of us: the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented economic downturn, the greatest civil rights reckoning in decades, and the continued threat of climate change."

Monday’s release said the DOJ plans to update the list as it identifies jurisdictions that “meet the criteria set out in the President’s Memorandum."

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg released the following statement Monday:

Today the Department of Justice labeled Seattle, Portland and New York City “anarchist jurisdictions.”

This allegation suggests that laws are not being enforced in King County, which could not be further from the truth. The deputy prosecutors in our office are working hard in the pursuit of justice and are addressing a record numbers of cases from around the county. This official DOJ designation seems more of a political statement than a factual one, and we were never contacted by them for any actual data. In the interest of providing more accurate information, we felt it was important for everyone to know the following facts:

  • The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has filed 20 felonies related to the protests, including shootings, gun cases, assaults, burglary cases, cases involving two deaths, and an arson at the Seattle Police East Precinct.
  • Every Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) case that has been referred to our office by police for a felony filing decision has led to criminal charges or is in the process of being reviewed. The cases that have been filed were reviewed individually, and charges were filed by our office after an independent review of each police investigation, including available video evidence. Those cases are detailed below, including one case that federal authorities filed on their own after our office filed the case.
  • Four of the cases that are now being handled by federal prosecutors were cases first filed by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Federal authorities made the decision to file their cases independently, and our cases can continue if those federal cases do not move forward.
  • Other high-profile protest cases – including the Jacob T. Little case, the Margaret Channon case, the Kelly Thomas Jackson case, the Kyle Robert Tornow case, the Sami C. Horner case, and the Desmond David-Pitts case – were not referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for a felony filing decision before federal charges were filed.

We also are addressing an unusually violent year overall in King County:

  • This year our office has filed 59 murder, manslaughter and vehicular homicide cases. At this point last year, we’d filed 47. Last year, we had 70 cases overall.
  • Our office also is addressing an increase in domestic violence. There have been 12 domestic violence homicides in King County this year. In each of the last two years, there were seven domestic violence homicides county-wide.
  • This year The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has filed 357 sexual assault cases through the end of August. That 357 number includes 98 rape cases across King County.
  •  Each business day, our office continues to file felony cases with a focus on public safety. On this past Friday alone, for example, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed the following cases:
    • Five burglary cases, including one in Seattle
    • Six felony-level drug crimes, including three in Seattle
    • Two cases of violating domestic violence court orders, including one in Seattle
    • Five assault cases, including two in Kent
    • A stolen vehicle case in Lake Forest Park, identity theft in Auburn, a theft case in Renton, a felony DUI case out of Auburn, and two charges involving child pornography

We continue to work well with our partners at both the federal and municipal level.  I have for more than three decades worked with our local U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.  Many of the Assistant United States Attorneys there started their careers in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office – they are smart, dedicated, independent  prosecutors.  It is essential for public trust that our work not be swayed by political rhetoric, but grounded in facts and in the pursuit of justice.  We are proud of the work we do in our office every single day as we strive toward a fair, equitable and safe county for all."