VIDEO: Trump Vows Arrest for Protesters Who Try to Topple Statues

6/24/2020 8:45 AM   

President Donald Trump said he told federal officials to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys monuments or statues on U.S. property after law enforcement near the White House used a pepper spray-like substance to move protesters away from a statue they tried to tear down. Photos from reporters on scene Monday night showed ropes slung around part of a statue of Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president, as protesters pulled in an effort to topple it. The statue sits in the middle of Lafayette Square just north of the White House. Police pushed the line of protesters back, and the statue still stands.

"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," Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for details about how Trump's order would be implemented.

Jackson was a war hero general who was long ranked by scholars as among the best U.S. presidents. His face adorns the $20 bill. However, Jackson's role in the removal of American Indian tribes from their ancestral lands has in recent years led to a reassessment of his image. Trump, who has spoken fondly of Jackson, hung a portrait of him in the Oval Office. He said in an earlier tweet that numerous people were arrested for the vandalism and warned against such acts. In an interview that aired Tuesday with Fox News, Trump said he was worried the effort to remove statues would lead Americans to forget the "heritage" and "culture" of the nation.

"Some of the things they are trying to destroy are magnificent pieces of art," Trump said. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt branded the protesters as "criminals" and "anarchists," saying in a statement he was thankful for police officers "who stand tall against these coordinated attacks and seek peace and justice for all."