(Reuters) – Four Democratic mayors on Thursday said President Donald Trump’s threat to pull federal funding from “lawless cities” was unlawful and their communities were not his “political pawns.”
The Republican president has threatened to revoke funding to several Democratic cities over issues ranging from protection of undocumented immigrants to their handling of civil unrest and protests against police violence.
Trump, who has made law and order a theme of his re-election campaign, on Wednesday issued a memo directing his administration to identify funds that could be cut from cities that he said “permit anarchy, violence and destruction,” calling them “anarchist jurisdictions.” All the cities cited are Democratic.
His comments followed the shooting death Saturday of Trump supporter Aaron Danielson in Portland, Oregon, which the president blamed on the “lawless” state of the city under Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler.
Wheeler and the mayors of New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C., on Thursday said any attempt to withdraw federal money would be unconstitutional and defeated in court.
“Trump needs to wake up to the reality facing our cities – and our entire country – and realize he is not above the law,” the mayors said in a joint statement.
The United States is experiencing escalating clashes between right-wing and left-wing groups as police shootings of Black people spark protests and counter-protests in the run-up to the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Portland has become a focus of the presidential election campaign after over three months of demonstrations for policing and social justice reforms, with hundreds of arrests as protesters clashed with police and destroyed property.
Anti-fascists had fought with supporters of the right-wing Patriot Prayer group in Portland every weekend since mid-August before Saturday’s shooting.
The latest flare-up in protest of police killing of a Black man occurred after the release of on Wednesday showing the arrest in March in upstate New York of a Black man who died by asphyxiation after police put a hood over his head as he knelt on the ground, handcuffed and naked.
Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden accuses Trump of stoking the violence, while the president calls Biden weak on crime.
Reuters polling shows no bounce in support for Trump, who trails Biden, as most Americans see the coronavirus pandemic, not crime, as the top issue facing the country.