President Trump signs executive order to protect monuments

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order regarding the destruction and damage of monuments.


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President Donald Trump has signed an executive order regarding the destruction and damage of monuments.

The measure seeks to protect federal monuments, memorials, statues and more. The order also calls for maximum prosecution for anyone who incites violence and illegal activity.

The order further goes on to suggest that the federal government could withhold support from state and local law enforcement agencies that have failed to protect public monuments, memorials and statues.

"I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues - and combatting recent Criminal Violence," Trump said Friday on Twitter. "Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!"

The order also notes existing law that makes vandalizing and destroying monuments punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines.

The executive order comes amid renewed scrutiny of monuments as America wrestles with racism during the unrest sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

"Those who vandalize our monuments will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Friday.

Trump has been clear that he opposes the removal of monuments of leaders of the Confederacy or other distasteful aspects of American history.

At a time of nationwide protests over racial injustice and inequality, Trump has aligned himself squarely on the side of those who argue that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of eliminating reminders of hated aspects of American history.

The federal statute Trump cites subjects anyone who willfully injures or destroys, or attempts to injure or destroy, any structure, plaque, statue or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States to fines, up to 10 years imprisonment or both.

Protesters tried to pull down a statue of President Andrew Jackson near the White House Monday night before being dispersed by police.

Trump had tweeted late Monday that those who tried to topple a statue of President Andrew Jackson faced 10 years in prison under the Veterans Memorial Preservation Act.

“Beware,” he tweeted.

Jackson is one of Trump's favorite presidents.

WUSA-TV in Washington reported that police used pepper spray to move protesters out of Lafayette Square, where the Jackson statue is located. Videos posted on social media showed that the protesters had climbed on the statue and tied ropes around it, then tried to pull it off its pedestal.

The statue shows Jackson in a military uniform, riding a horse that is rearing on its hind legs. The 19th century president's ruthless treatment of Native Americans has made his statue a target of demonstrators protesting the United States' legacy of racial injustice.

The Jackson statue remained on its pedestal Monday night.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was at the scene Monday night, and issued a statement saying: “Let me be clear: we will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served.”

Early Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he 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 other such laws that may be pertinent."

Trump said his authorization was effective immediately, "but may also be used retroactively for vandalism already caused.

"There will be no exceptions!" Trump tweeted.

Over the weekend, Trump also called for police to make arrests after people pulled down another statue in Washington.

A crowd gathered and brought the statue of Albert Pike, a Confederate general, crashing to the ground, leading onlookers to cheer.

"The D.C. Police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down & burn," Trump said on Twitter. "These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our Country."

It comes as people across the U.S. have been voicing longstanding demands to remove symbols and names associated with slavery and oppression.

Monuments to Confederates and other historical figures who repressed or oppressed other people are being dismantled across the country.

Hearst TV contributed to this report.