Trump signs 'strong executive order' to protect America's statues, warns 'long prison terms' for lawless acts
The president has been vocal against the statue-toppling movement and was particularly aghast at an attempt to bring down a former president's statue
Just as he promised to come up with a strong executive order to take on protesters who are busy toppling statues around the US in the wake of the anti-racism protests, President Donald Trump on Friday, June 26, signed a document to protect the country's "monuments, memorials and statues" and "combating criminal violence". He also warned about lengthy imprisonment for those that damage the monuments.
Trump has been speaking strongly against the statue-felling spree and was particularly upset when protesters tried to create a free zone in the capital last Monday and bring down the statue of one of his predecessors — Andrew Jackson (in office: 1829-37). The president has been angered by the idea of creating free protest zones in cities like Seattle and eventually came up with a strong order. He had tried to deploy the military earlier to quell the protests that have been ignited following the brutal death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month but could not succeed in the face of objection from defense and military quarters.
Trump boasted about his latest executive step in a tweet on Friday to say: "I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues — and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!"
The detailed wordings of the order were yet to be revealed and it was not yet clear how it would differ from the existing laws including the Veterans' Memorial Preservation Act. In an earlier tweet in the wake of the Washington DC, the president said in a tweet: "I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the US with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran's Memorial Preservation Act." In another tweet, he threatened the protesters "with serious force" but it was flagged by the social media giant.
Trump tweets photos of 15 wanted by FBI for vandalism
Before coming up with the announcement about the order, Trump also tweeted a photo of an FBI’s wanted poster seeking information from the public about 15 people suspected of vandalizing Jackson’s statue in Lafayette Square, located adjacent to the White House, on June 22. The word "killer" was spray-painted at the statue's base.
"MANY people in custody, with many others being sought for Vandalization of Federal Property in Lafayette Park. 10 year prison sentences!" the tweet said. "The FBI's Washington Field Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force, in conjunction with the United States Park Police, is interested in identifying several individuals who are responsible for vandalizing federal property in Lafayette Square," the poster reads.
This is the second time this week that Trump has taken a dig at Black Lives Matter protests during which statues have been vandalized. "Numerous people arrested in D.C. for the disgraceful vandalism, in Lafayette Park, of the magnificent Statue of Andrew Jackson, in addition to the exterior defacing of St. John’s Church across the street," he said in a tweet on Monday.
On Wednesday, June 24, Trump told reporters at the White House that protesters were coming after the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and even Jesus Christ. Statues of Washington and Jefferson, however, have already been brought down in Portland, Oregon, earlier this month.