The president’s latest statement follows an attempt to take down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square near the White House Monday night, a second incident of vandalism at the nearby St. John’s Church, and prior vandalism of the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial.
“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent,” Trump tweeted.
“This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!”
House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, called the church attack as rioters tried to set up an “Autonomous Zone” near the white house, “a chilling message that faith and freedom are enemies in the eyes of the anarchists on the street,” adding that those responsible “must be prosecuted.”
Trump later addressed the extremists who tried to set up the autonomous zone tweeting: “There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!”
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt responded to the latest destruction of property by the rioters, writing the following statement on Twitter:
“I just left Lafayette Square where another so called “peaceful protest” led to destruction tonight. Let me be clear: we will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served.
The scope of the violence and destruction since the protests started weeks ago have been significant. Criminals have vandalized national memorials and monuments, ignited sacred sites, attacked law enforcement officers, and destroyed countless businesses.
The Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial were previously defaced, and now the Andrew Jackson Statue in Lafayette Square has been defaced by criminals who sought to topple the statue recognizing the seventh President of the United States.
Law enforcement officers ensured that this would not happen.
Across the country, some elected leaders of our cities have expressed enthusiasm and support for these criminals, exhibiting an undeniable unwillingness to protect law abiding citizens and their property.
We live in the greatest country in the world, and I thank our dedicated law enforcement officials who stand tall against these coordinated attacks and seek peace and justice for all.”
Historic monuments and statues have become the targets of anger and vandalism during protests in the wake of George Floyd’s police custody death at the end of May.
The initial statues under fire were those of Confederate soldiers and generals largely in the South, but the anger has spread to monuments well beyond that historical period.
On Thursday, demonstrators in Portland, Ore., toppled a statue of President George Washington. Friday, protesters in San Francisco defaced and toppled the statue of former President Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union Army during the Civil War.
The Veterans’ Memorial Preservation Act that Trump cited calls for up to 10 years behind bars and a fine for anyone who damages or attempts to damage “any structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States.”
Trump signaled disgust for the destruction of these key pieces of American history, and said he will sign an executive order meant to protect public statues and monuments in general from being damaged or destroyed.
“We are going to do an executive order and make the cities guard their monuments,” Trump told Eternal Word Television Network’s Raymond Arroyo. “This is a disgrace.”