President Donald Trump threatened those who might topple federal monuments with a possible 10-year prison sentence Sunday morning, in an early Twitter thread.
The tweets echo the president’s executive order late last month, authorizing and encouraging federal law enforcement officials to seek the maximum penalty possible under the law for those protesters and rioters targeting monuments — a campaign that began with targeting monuments to key leaders of the Confederacy but has since expanded to include a number of the Founding Fathers, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
“No, Radical Left anarchists, agitators, looters or protesters will not be knocking down or harming the Washington Monument, the Lincoln or Jefferson Memorials,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “If they even try, an automatic 10 years in prison. Sorry!”
Although Trump has claimed that he “authorized” federal law enforcement agencies to arrest and charge monument vandals through an executive order from June 26, 2020, the order simply reaffirms the government’s right to charge those who might seek to harm or topple Federal monuments under the Veteran’s Memorial Protection Act, passed in 2003 after a string of incidents at military cemeteries.
The order also directs federal authorities to seek the maximum possible penalty in such cases, which is a decade in federal prison.
“Whoever, in a circumstance described willfully injures or destroys or attempts to injure or destroy, any structure, plaque, statue, or other monuments on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both,” that act reads in part.
The executive order came just one day before the Department of Justice announced that it had arrested and was seeking charges against four men who lead an effort to tear down a monument to Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square, directly across from the White House.
The four men, the DOJ, said in a statement, tried to pry the statue off its base to make it easier for a group of anarchist demonstrators, camped outside the White House, to pull down with a rope system. Their efforts did not succeed, but they were captured on video and quickly apprehended.
The Trump administration has been aggressive in forcing states and cities to protect their existing monuments. Just last week, the president pledged to withhold federal funding for any state or city that turned a blind eye to the destruction of monuments.
“The new order enforces laws prohibiting the desecration of public monuments, the vandalism of government property, and recent acts of violence, withholds federal support tied to public spaces from state and local governments that have failed to protect public monuments, and withdraws federal grants for jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies that fail to stop their desecration,” Fox News reported last week.