Two Lawyers Walk Into an ‘Anarchistic Jurisdiction’
This past weekend, President Donald Trump asked Attorney General William Barr to designate Seattle, Portland, and New York City as “anarchistic jurisdictions” and to consider withholding federal funds, including potentially those used for law enforcement, from those cities.
Of the three cities, Portland has had the longest running visible conflicts, with marches and escalating violence nearly every night since George Floyd was killed on May 25. (Protesters did take a few nights off during the recent wildfires.)
The pictures the world sees of Portland are unsubtle—it’s either “Savages coming to your town!” or “Protesters clubbed by Trump goons!”—and the situation on the ground, remains seemingly intractable. Mayor Ted Wheeler is in constant tension with his police force, with demonstrators in Portland (including those who effectively forced him to move out of his condominium), and with the person vying for his seat in five weeks, the openly pro-antifa candidate Sarah Iannarone.
What impact, if any, might the designation have—and is it in earnest?
“My take on this ‘anarchistic jurisdiction’ nonsense is that it’s just some more cheap oratory to keep his peeps raging, hating, and on the edge of violence,” says civil rights lawyer Michael Rose of Trump’s latest gambit to impose law and order.
D. Angus Lee disagrees. The criminal attorney sees a police force that’s been steadily winnowed, both by new District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s decision not to prosecute protesters for many previously prosecutable crimes, and by city officials scrapping programs that, in Lee’s view, kept the community safe.
“Mayor Wheeler should immediately bring back the Gun Violence Reduction Team,” he said.
The two attorneys come from different perspectives. Rose was marching for civil rights in the 1960s; Lee is a former Marine born in 1977. Rose currently has a case in federal court over “cops [who] pepper-sprayed our client for no good reason”; Lee wonders why his client, Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson, has not had his rioting charge retroactively dropped when so many others, under Schmidt’s new rules, have.
The two attorneys—Rose is based in Portland, Lee in nearby Vancouver, Washington—offered to share some thoughts with Reason.
Do you see this latest move by Trump and Barr as justified?
Lee: Federal tax dollars are allocated by way of grants to local law enforcement agencies that need—and will actually put to use—grant funding in an effort to enhance public safety. If a local jurisdiction has lost the political will to uphold the law then there is no point giving grant funds to that jurisdiction when those funds could be better used in a jurisdiction where the prosecutor was actually committed to public safety and rule of law. If the funds are being wasted [in Portland], they should be allocated to a jurisdiction that will put them to good use.
Rose: I find Trump’s characterization of Portland as an “anarchistic jurisdiction” laughable, first because he hasn’t a clue as to what the words mean, and secondly, if he did know what they meant, he’d be wrong about the characterization. What needs to be kept
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