President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to promise arrests and jail time for protesters who vandalize monuments, ABC News reported. Though he didn’t specifically mention Confederate monuments, such memorials have been the target of most of the vandalism Trump referenced.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests, monuments of Confederate fighters in several cities have been targeted by protesters who want them gone, arguing that honoring men who fought for the Confederacy — and by extension, to keep slavery legal — is an ongoing act of racism. In some cases, local governments have ordered them removed. Reasoning has included protecting them from vandalism, believing that removing them was simply the right thing to do, or some combination of these and other reasons. Protesters have forcibly torn down, spray-painted, or mutilated the statues.
Trump, who has been adamant that those monuments should remain, said on Tuesday that protesters who vandalize those monuments should be arrested and face prison time.
“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison,” he tweeted.
He went on to note that he was effectively calling on police and prosecutors to enforce an existing law, the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act.
“This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!,” he said in a follow-up tweet.
Speaking to reporters, Trump confirmed that his planned executive order doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but rather, just refers to existing laws.
“All it’s really going to do is reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way.”
Last week, as reported at the time by The Inquisitr, protesters in Washington, D.C. tore down and set on fire a statue of Albert Pike, the only memorial to a Confederate fighter in the city. Police did not intervene as the statue was being pulled down, a fact that did not sit well with Trump, who later accused D.C. police of not doing their jobs, as he called for the protesters to be arrested.
On Monday night in Washington, protesters convened on a statue of Andrew Jackson, the 7th president. Though he was not a Confederate general, he was an advocate for the forcible relocation of Native Americans, as well as a slave owner. Police did intervene to prevent any vandalism of the Jackson statue.