Trump threatens ‘anarchists’ who threw paint on George Washington statue with 10-year sentences
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: Donald Trump asked the men responsible for vandalizing the George Washington statues in New York City to turn themselves in to the police and promised they will be punished severely for defacing the monuments.
"We are tracking down the two Anarchists who threw paint on the magnificent George Washington Statue in Manhattan," the president tweeted on Tuesday, June 30. "We have them on tape. They will be prosecuted and face 10 years in prison based on the Monuments and Statues Act. Turn yourselves in now!"
Trump was referring to an incident where two unidentified men were caught on surveillance footage walking near Washington Square Park in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan before the vandalism on Monday, June 29.
The men then stop at the iconic arch at the main entrance of the park at around 3:20 am and can be seen speaking to someone sitting on a Citi Bike. They both proceed to hurl balloons filled with red paint at the statues of George Washington, the country's first president who has come under recent criticism because of his association with slavery.
One of the statues was representative of Washington's role as the first leader of the United States while the other depicted him as the general of the country's Revolutionary War forces. Both were added to the park more than a century ago.
In the aftermath of the incident, police announced that they were looking for both the suspects. One of them has blonde hair and was wearing an N95 mask, black shorts, and a black t-shirt, as seen in the video. The other was sporting a face-covering white hockey mask, a black t-shirt, and black jeans.
Both could face a significant amount of time behind bars after Trump recently signed a document to protect the country's "monuments, memorials, and statues" and made their protection a priority for the Justice Department.
"I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials and Statues – and combating recent Criminal Violence," he announced on Twitter this past week. "Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country."
He had subsequently explained his reasoning behind the Executive Order in an interview with Fox News this past Sunday, June 28, where he insisted that people needed to learn from their "great" country's history.
"My message is that we have a great country, we have the greatest country on Earth," he said. "We have a heritage, we have a history and we should learn from the history, and if you don't understand your history, you will go back to it again. You will go right back to it. You have to learn."
He said he had been upset by the recent questioning of George Washington's legacy and that some people wanted to take down the statues of the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Ulysses S. Grant without being aware of their contributions to the country.
"You have to understand history, and our culture, and so many other aspects," he said. "But you can't take down George Washington. Here is the other problem that I have - a lot of these people don't even know what they are taking down."