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'They're looking at Jesus!' Trump issues warning to protesters after he fears they will target religious statues

Trump says he'll have a 'very powerful statement' to protect the statues
UPDATED JUN 25, 2020
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has issued a strong warning to protesters who are hell-bent to pull down statues of former leaders across the US in the wake of pro-black demonstrations saying he will sign a "very strong executive order" by the end of the week to take them on. The president has been vocal against the movement to topple statues and the demand to rename military bases that bear names of past Confederate leaders. He now fears that the protesters would go after the statues of Jesus Christ and founding fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

On Wednesday, June 24, Trump attended a press conference in Rose Garden where he met his poll-bound Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, the first foreign leader to visit the US in months since the country has been battling the coronavirus pandemic. He said, "Now they are looking at Jesus Christ, they are looking at George Washington, Thomas Jefferson.” He then spoke about the executive order, saying: “We are going to come out with a strong executive order. I should have that by the end of the week, which is fast approaching. We are going to have a very powerful statement."

Protesters attempt to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square near White House on June 22, 2020, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

On Tuesday, June 23, Trump said in a tweet that he has authorized the federal government to arrest those who vandalize or destroy any monument, statue or any other federal property with up to 10 years in prison. He was particularly livid with the protesters in Washington DC trying to create a free zone on Monday (June 22) and bring down the statue of former president Andrew Jackson, one of his personal favorites, in Lafayette Square near the White House. However, his threat to use “serious force” was flagged by Twitter, which said it violated its rule on abusive behavior.

Statues of Washington, Jefferson pulled down in Oregon recently

The country has already seen statues of former presidents like Washington and Jefferson getting pulled down. On June 18, protesters gathered around a statue of Washington in Portland, Oregon, to set its head on fire and pulled it down. Photos and videos that originated from the site showed the statue was spray painted with “Genocidal Colonist”, “You’re on native lands”, “BLM”, “Big Floyd” etc. Four days before that, a statue of a sitting Jefferson was brought down outside a high school in Portland and it was also spray-painted with “slave owner” and the name of the slain George Floyd written on its base. 

Initially, the protesters targeted statues of Confederate soldiers and leaders who were known for their support to slavery. But now, statues of figures outside the Civil War (1861-65) are also being targeted. Even the statue of Christopher Columbus has not been spared. In San Francisco, a statue of another former president, Ulysses S Grant, who led the Union during the Civil War, was brought down. Grant had married in a family that owned slaves. 

On June 23, Trump said he will "reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way", while speaking about the statues. He, however, did not elaborate.