Donald Trump has warned that anyone who vandalizes public statues faces up to 10 years behind bars. The President of the United States tweeted Tuesday: ‘I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the US with up to 10 years
in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent. ‘This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!
’ The president spoke as scores of statues of Confederate-era figures and slave owners across the US were toppled or vandalized amid ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. His message suggested those involved in recent destruction could also now be charged with a crime.
He has sought to blame rival Democrats for the rabble-rousing ahead of November’s presidential election, and told a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Sunday: ‘The choice in 2020 is very simple. Do you want to bow before the left-wing mob or do you want to stand up tall and proud as Americans?’
On Monday, Trump said he opposed plans to remove a statue of former President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt from outside New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. The offending monument shows Roosevelt – who was president between 1901 and 1909 – on horseback with a Native American man and African man by his side. Its removal was announced after museum bosses said they agreed the monument represented colonialism and racial discrimination.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio also backed the monument’s removal after saying that it ‘depicts black and indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior.’ They said the museum will continue to remember Roosevelt’s achievements thanks to its memorial hall, which has been named after him. Roosevelt’s statue is set to be removed as dozens of statues of Christopher Columbus were beheaded, daubed with paint and pulled from their plinths across the United States.
Others figures targeted included a bust of ex-President Ulysses Grant in San Francisco. Grant helped fight to end slavery, but protesters said his family’s ownership of slaves meant that his bust had to go. And in Washington DC, a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike was also torn down Sunday.
Protesters also unsuccessfully attempted to tear down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson situated close to the White House, but were unable to do so. Protesters say the statues serve as a hurtful reminder of America’s racist past, and that it is inappropriate to continue displaying them while African-American people continue to face racial injustice and police brutality. But critics of the statue toppling say the monuments should be allowed to serve as educational tools, with updated plaques explaining the truth about the lives of the men the monuments represent.