US President Donald Trump signs executive order to protect monuments
US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to protect monuments, memorials and statues facing new scrutiny amid fresh debate over the nation’s racist beginnings.
- The targeting of the statues by protesters has become a rallying cry for Donald Trump and other conservatives
- Mr Trump has threatened that all those who damage federal property will be jailed for 10 years
- Protesters removed the only statue of a Confederate general in Washington DC on June 19
Mr Trump had promised to take action earlier this week after police thwarted an attempt by protesters to pull down a statue of Andrew Jackson in a park across from the White House in Washington, DC.
The order calls on the Attorney General to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any person or group that destroys or vandalises a monument, memorial or statue.
Federal law in the US authorises a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for the “willful injury” of federal property.
The order also calls for maximum prosecution for anyone who incites violence and illegal activity, and it threatens state and local law enforcement agencies that fail to protect monuments with the loss of federal funding.
Mr Trump announced earlier on Friday via Twitter that he had signed the order and called it “strong”.
The president also used Twitter to call for the arrest of protesters involved with the attempt to bring down the Andrew Jackson statue from Lafayette Park.
He retweeted an FBI wanted poster showing pictures of 15 protesters who are wanted for “vandalization of federal property”.
Mr Trump wrote, “MANY people in custody, with many others being sought for Vandalization of Federal Property in Lafayette Park. 10 year prison sentences!”
He also said on Twitter that he had scrapped plans to spend the weekend at his central New Jersey home to stay in Washington “to make sure LAW & ORDER is enforced.”
“These arsonists, anarchists, looters, and agitators have been largely stopped,” Mr Trump tweeted.
Demonstrators have grown increasingly emboldened about targeting statues deemed offensive or inappropriate.
Protesters on Monday night attempted to drag the Andrew Jackson statue down with ropes and chains.
On June 19, or Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery in the United States, cheering crowds puled down a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike.
The statue stood on federal land and had withstood previous attempts by the Washington DC government to remove it.
According to participants, police officers were on the scene but did not attempt to interfere.
The targeting of the statues has become a rallying cry for Trump and other conservatives.
Immediately after the Albert Pike statute was toppled and set ablaze, Mr Trump called the incident a “disgrace to our Country!” on Twitter.
On Tuesday he tweeted, “I have authorized the Federal 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.”