Hundreds of troops with the Washington, D.C., National Guard have mobilized to protect monuments in the nation’s capital, a Pentagon spokesperson has confirmed.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt requested the action earlier this week, as protesters target statues and other historical markers during ongoing demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s police custody death in Minneapolis at the end of May.
The Pentagon confirmed that roughly 400 D.C. Guard members have been activated and are on standby.
“Since their activation, none of the National Guard members have been dispatched to actual monument locations to provide assistance to the NPP,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christian Mitchell said in a statement. “They remain on standby at the DC Armory at this time. They will support U.S. Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction.”
Mitchell noted that the National Guard members are unarmed and “will serve as a uniformed deterrence” and in a “crowd management capacity.”
Protesters on Monday attempted to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square by the White House, and defaced it with the phrase “killer scum,” Reuters reported. Bernhardt said afterward that he visited Lafayette Square and witnessed the destruction. He said the country “will not bow to anarchists,” and that “law and order will prevail, and justice will be served.”
The Lincoln Memorial and WWII Memorial were also defaced in earlier protests.
During a protest on Tuesday that took place in front of D.C.’s Emancipation Memorial, one demonstrator announced that on Thursday they would tear down the memorial’s statue of Abraham Lincoln standing over a freed slave.
President Trump warned Tuesday morning that anyone caught vandalizing monuments or any other federal property would be subject to arrest and face up to 10 years in prison under federal law.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, meanwhile, announced a more formal measure against the Emancipation Memorial, stating that she will introduce a bill calling for the statue to be removed from its home in Lincoln Park and placed in a museum.
“Although formerly enslaved Americans paid for this statue to be built in 1876, the design and sculpting process was done without their input, and it shows,” Holmes Norton said in a statement. “The statue fails to note in any way how enslaved African Americans pushed for their own emancipation. Understandably, they were only recently liberated from slavery and were grateful for any recognition of their freedom.” She noted that at the statue’s unveiling, keynote speaker Frederick Douglass “expressed his displeasure” with it.
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips and Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.