President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened up to 10 years in prison for those who vandalize historic monuments and statues by applying federal law, also retroactively.
“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other federal property in the United States with up to 10 years in prison, through the Veterans Memorial Preservation Act or any other legislation that may be applicable,” the president wrote this morning on his Twitter account.
He added that this action, which he will carry out through an executive order that he said he will sign shortly, will have a retroactive effect, so those who have committed this type of action before will also be punished.
This decision comes after numerous statues of historical figures were attacked in the context of the racial protests in recent weeks.
The main target of the protesters has been the Confederate symbols – defenders of slavery during the Civil War – which abound especially in the southern states, but statues of the Spanish conquistadors or the “founding fathers” of the United States have also been attacked.
Trump called these protesters “anarchists and other things” before leaving the White House for Arizona to visit the Mexican border, and said that “if the states can’t control them,” he is willing to help.
The straw that broke the camel’s back could have been an action on Monday night just a few feet from the White House, when federal police prevented a group of protesters from knocking down the statue of former President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) on a horse that stands on its two hind legs in Lafayette Park in front of the main entrance to the presidential residence.
The protesters had already placed ropes and chains on the equestrian statue when police dispersed the protest using tear gas.
Jackson’s statue stands in Lafayette Park, which has been the epicenter of racial protests in Washington because of its location, right across from the president’s residence.