Striking a blow in defense of the nation’s heritage, President Donald Trump on Friday acted to ensure that those who seek to destroy monuments and statues honoring figures from American history will pay a stiff price.
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!” Trump tweeted Friday.
I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2020
Trump also publicized a poster of those wanted for vandalizing federal property in LaFayette Park across from the White House in Washington, D.C.
On Friday, the White House announced Trump had signed an executive order “that ensures that any person or group that destroys or vandalizes a monument, memorial, or statue,” as well as “those who incite violence and illegal activity,” are “prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law.”
The White House noted that damaging federal property carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
The executive order, meanwhile, said that “state and local law enforcement agencies that fail to protect monuments, memorials, and statues will be subject to the withholding of federal support.”
The attorney general’s office will spearhead the prosecution of those who damage federal property, the order said. Further, federal personnel will be available to communities that want to protect their statues.
“They’re tearing down statues, desecrating monuments, and purging dissenters,” Trump said in a statement. “It’s not the behavior of a peaceful political movement; it’s the behavior of totalitarians and tyrants and people that don’t love our country.”
“Rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists have sought to advance an ideology that paints the United States of America as fundamentally unjust and have sought to impose that ideology on Americans through violence and mob intimidation,” she said.
“They have led riots in the streets, burned police vehicles, killed and assaulted government officers and business owners defending their property, and even seized an area within one city where law and order has given way completely to anarchy,” McEnany added. “These criminal acts are frequently planned and supported by agitators who have traveled across state lines to promote their own violent agenda.”
“The latest targets in the violent extremists’ campaign against our country are public monuments, memorials, and statues. Many of their targets show that they are ignorant of our history and seek nothing more than to destroy anything that honors our past and to erase from the public mind any suggestion that our past may be worth honoring,” the statement continued.
“In the last week, vandals toppled a statue of President Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco,” it added, also citing other episodes.
“In Charlotte, North Carolina, the names of 507 veterans memorialized on a World War II monument were painted over with a symbol of communism. And earlier this month, in Boston, a memorial commemorating an African-American regiment that fought in the Civil War was defaced with graffiti.”
During a Fox News town hall this week, Trump said that an orderly change to public art is very different from the destruction of recent days.
“I can understand certain things being taken down, but they ought to go through a process legally. And then we take it down; in some cases, put them in museums or wherever they may go,” he said.
“But these are really rioters and there are a lot of bad people involved. You know, they talk about protesters — and there are protesters, but there are beyond protesters, too. And we’re not going to allow it,” Trump added, according to a White House transcript of his comments.
Trump has said his executive is necessary to protect timeless treasures.
“It’s a disgrace,” he said in an interview earlier in the week. “Remember, some of this is great artwork. This is magnificent artwork, as good as there is anywhere in the world, as good as you see in France, as good as you see anywhere. It’s a disgrace.”