's threat to cut cities' funding 'unconstitutional,' mayors say

By Andrea Shalal, Sarah N. Lynch and Tim Ahmann

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mayors of major U.S. cities on Thursday blasted President Donald 's threat to cut federal funding to cities facing ongoing protests as "unconstitutional" and predicted the move would be challenged in court by civil rights groups.

on Wednesday instructed Attorney General William Barr to develop a list of "anarchist jurisdictions" that "permitted violence and the destruction of property ... and have refused to undertake reasonable measures" to restore order.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors said the order had no legal standing, and would make cities less safe by slashing resources for police, first responders and firefighters.

"This effort is intended only to inflame tensions and divide us. It is without merit, and it would hurt the people that a president is entrusted to protect,” said the group's CEO Tom Cochran.

The mayors of Washington, Portland, Seattle and New York City - who were singled out in the memo - condemned the action.

“We are confronting unprecedented challenges — fighting back a pandemic and economic devastation without another stimulus. Now, instead of leadership from the White House, we are faced with new attacks that are unlawful, unconstitutional and will be undoubtedly defeated in court," they wrote in a joint statement.

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Demonstrations against racism and police brutality have swept the United States since the death in May of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody.

The Republican president has sought to portray the protests, which sometimes ended in clashes, as fueled by left-wing agitators and made calls for "law and order" a centerpiece of his bid to win re-election on Nov. 3.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday said it would carefully monitor the outcome of a memo it described as "unfounded and irresponsible," warning that it would "stoke the flames of racism and division across this country.”

The ACLU said the administration should instead end programs that provided military equipment to local police.

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