Many monuments of racist statues have been toppled by protesters in recent weeks, and many more attempts have been stopped by police. Just last night, protesters were stopped by police after trying to take down a statue of President Andrew Jackson outside the White House. In response, President Donald Trump says he aims to prosecute those protesters — and any others who may try to topple those historic monuments.
"Last night we stopped an attack on a great monument of Andrew Jackson,” Trump said, thanking police for intervening. “We are looking at long term jail sentences for these vandals, hoodlums, anarchists and agitators. Some people don't like that language, but that's what they are: Bad people. They don't love our country, and they're not taking down our monuments. I just want that to be clear.”
The president also made it clear that his next move would be signing an executive order to stop people from messing with monuments. "I will have an executive order very shortly. And all it's really going to do is reinforce what's already there, but in a more uniform way,” said Trump. The president also added that he’s happy to send in the National Guard the same way he did in Minneapolis after protests broke out after the police murder of George Floyd.
In a slew of tweets this morning, Trump reaffirmed that he’s authorized the 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.” Under the federal law Trump has cited — the Veterans Memorial Preservation — one section of the act explicitly states that anyone who willfully damages or destroys veteran memorials, or even attempts to do so, will be fined and imprisoned for up to ten years.
The Lincoln Project, the same political group that released the anti-Trump mourning in America ad headed up by Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, tweeted, “Trump is doing more to protect statues than American citizens” in response. This perspective illustrates the president's willingness to take action to protect racist monuments is deeper than any actions he's taken to preserve Black lives against police brutality.
And, all of this comes after protesters attempted to establish an autonomous zone near the White House last night, when they spray-painted “BHAZ” for Black House Autonomous Zone on St. John’s Church. Along with demands to defund the police and fire racist and violent cops who have killed Black people like Breonna Taylor, many protesters have also asked that statues be taken down before attempting to topple the statues themselves.