President Trump announced on Friday that he signed an executive order to protect American monuments, memorials and statues and threatened those trying to tear them down with “a long time in prison.”
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order that protects the Monuments, Monuments and Statues of the United States, and fights recent criminal violence,” Trump tweeted. “Long prison terms for these illegal acts against our Great Country!”
The new order enforces laws prohibiting the desecration of public monuments, government-owned vandalism, and recent acts of violence, withholding federal support linked to public spaces from state and local governments that have failed to protect the monuments public, and withdraws federal grants for jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies that fail to stop its desecration.
It also provides assistance to protect federal statues.
Meanwhile, on Friday night, Attorney General Bill Barr led the creation of a task force to counter anti-government extremists, specifically naming those who support the far-right “boogaloo” movement and those who identify as Antifa. .
The task force will be chaired by Craig Carpenito, the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and Erin Nealy Cox, United States Attorney for the District of North Texas, and will be composed of the United States Law Offices, the FBI and other relevant departments. , according to a press release. The group will share information with local and state police and provide training on identifying anti-government extremists, according to an internal Justice Department memo.
The President has been sparking his order related to memorials for the entire week, as historical monuments and statues have become targets of anger and vandalism during the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd by police custody in Minneapolis in late May.
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The initial statues under fire were Confederate soldiers and generals largely in the south due to the treatment of African-Americans, and even some senior military officers called for the name change of the army bases named after the Confederate generals. Since then, anger has spread to monuments of former presidents and others considered “colonizers,” such as Christopher Columbus, and even some who fought against slavery.
On Friday night, protesters plan to try to tear down the Statue of Emancipation of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Park. The statue shows the sixteenth president holding the Emancipation Proclamation alongside a kneeling and chained slave. Protesters say it does not represent the role slaves had in securing their own freedom.
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Congresswoman for Washington, DC Eleanor Holmes Norton said on Tuesday she would introduce a House bill to remove the “troublesome” statue.
Last weekend, protesters tied ropes and attempted to knock down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square Park, but police stopped them.
In San Francisco, protesters defaced and demolished a statue of Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union Army during the Civil War. The protesters that same night also demolished the statues of San Junípero Serra and Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
This week McConnell listed the monuments that have been defaced in recent days, noting that in Portland, Oregon, a mafia “graffiti a statue of our first president, knocked it down, and burned an American flag over his head. This is George Washington.
McConnell said another Washington statue was defaced in Baltimore, a Thomas Jefferson statue was knocked down in Portland and others were attacked.
“This is the first President General who built our nation, and the author of the Declaration of Independence. Great statesmen who helped start this great experiment that has brought freedom to hundreds of millions and saved the world multiple times just in case, ”McConnell said. “And yet, a mad band is treating its monuments like vanity statues of tin-horned tyrants.”
He added: “Our Founding Fathers are being tied to the ground as if they were Saddam Hussein. The list goes on. “
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McConnell was referring to the famous moment in 2003 when a 40-foot bronze statue of the Iraqi dictator was tied up and thrown to the ground, symbolizing the end of his rule.
Fox News’ John Roberts, Jake Gibson and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.