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New York, Portland, and Seattle Are Officially Anarchist Jurisdictions. Which Means What?

Anarchy! A woman wears a mask as she rides a scooter in downtown Portland, Oregon where air quality due to smoke from wildfires was measured to be amongst the worst in the world, September 14, 2020. - The deadly fires spreading across three western US states are causing record-breaking pollution and a spate of health woes, from headaches and coughs to impaired vision, that have residents worried about the long-term consequences. Portland, the largest city in Oregon, has been blanketed for days by a dense smog that has sent pollution meters soaring. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY CYRIL JULIEN "As Oregon fires burn, smoggy air suffocates Portland residents" (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Portland, Oregon, the town where goats are walked in the streets like dogs (a thing I have seen with my own eyes) and where leprechauns have their own, very small city park, has finally earned the designation it has long deserved. Along with New York and Seattle, Portland has been declared an “anarchist” jurisdiction by Attorney General Bill Barr.

I mean, I guess it makes sense? Seattle puts cream cheese on hotdogs (and it’s delicious), and New York has always represented an American dream that’s drawn immigrants and inspired the nation for centuries so yeah, they totally are “anarchist jurisdictions,” just like dirty ol’ Portland with her bike lanes and artisanal donuts.

All joking aside, this is both terrifying and ridiculous. The “anarchist jurisdiction” is tied, of course, to the sustained protests all three of these cities against police brutality and systemic racism. In Portland in particular, protesters faced off with federal authorities who attempted to round up demonstrators without cause or warrants.

In the words of a press release, these cities have “permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities.” Which is … not true. Most protests have been peaceful and are addressed at continuing to bring attention to systemic racism and inequality.

But this has nothing to do with law and order or even violent protests, it’s about sticking it to these cities and cutting federal funding for them. It’s transparently racist, cruel, and fascist. It’s not, as Barr (a pile of dung and tar that somehow stole a law degree) claims, about protecting peaceful protestors. It’s about Trump’s war on liberal cities.

Republicans simply don’t want people protesting for systemic change. They don’t believe systemic racism exists and they would rather make protesting a crime than engage with those demanding change. This has been proposed in Florida.

But it’s also so transparently ridiculous. Anarchy means literally no ruler. (An means without, archy means rulership). You can’t have an anarchist jurisdiction, especially since all three of these cities still have governments (though all three could be doing much better … to address systemic racism and inequality).

Even so, look at these horrifying scenes of anarchy …

It’s rough here in the anarchist wilds of Portland, I tell you. I went to a coffee shop this weekend that didn’t even HAVE oat milk. Can you believe it?

(image: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.