In the continued adventures of words losing their meaning to the tides of political panic: this morning, the Department of Justice released a memo that designated Portland, Seattle, and New York as jurisdictions that permit “anarchy, violence, and destruction,” and threatened to cut federal aid to all three cities. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,” reads US Attorney General William Barr’s comic-book-villain statement, which sports none of the flair of his spandex-clad contemporaries but does hand-wring about slashing overtime for the NYPD.

The memo, which cites President Trump’s September 2 memo announcing the intent to identify and reprimand “anarchist jurisdictions,” fails to mention what funding might be at stake or what the DOJ means by “anarchy.” We think Barr is probably imagining a V for Vendetta situation, but maybe he’s more of a Mad Max guy. Common mistake—in case he’s confused, here’s Teen Vogue article that spells the concept out pretty nicely.

For now, Portland, Seattle, and NYC are the only officially recognized anarchy zones, but the memo indicates that the DOJ will continue to update its designations as it sees fit. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, alongside Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan and NYC’s Bill de Blasio, issued a joint response to the news this morning:

“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.”
Conspicuously absent from the conversation: the fact that many “violent” anarchists in the Portland area pivoted to mutual aid last week, providing food and supplies for people displaced by the historic, devastating wildfires that have burned more than a million Oregon acres and choked the entire Northwest with toxic smoke. 
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