On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a new executive order to protect the nation’s historical monuments, statues, and memorials, The Associated Press reported. The executive order enacts several provisions to prevent the vandalism and destruction of these artifacts and calls for severe consequences for individuals who do vandalize or destroy them.
In the executive order, the president asked the Attorney General to pursue harsh prosecution for individuals and groups who vandalize or destroy monuments, statues, or memorials, and he suggested a sentence of up to 10 years in jail for anyone who commits “willful injury” to these artifacts. The executive order also sought to penalize law enforcement agencies that don’t intervene when they see vandalism or other destructive acts taking place by withholding their federal funding. Lastly, the executive order stated that harsh prosecution should be pursued against any individuals or groups that provoke violent behavior or illegal acts.
On Friday evening, Trump took to Twitter to praise the executive order.
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence,” he tweeted. “Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!”
Earlier on Friday, Trump tweeted about individuals that had torn down a statue in Lafayette Park, saying they should be sent to jail.
“MANY people in custody, with many others being sought for Vandalization of Federal Property in Lafayette Park. 10-year prison sentences!”
In another tweet, Trump emphasized that he was doing what needed to be done to protect U.S. citizens.
“These arsonists, anarchists, looters, and agitators have been largely stopped,” Trump tweeted. “I am doing what is necessary to keep our communities safe — and these people will be brought to Justice!”
Trump also wrote on his Twitter account that he had changed his weekend plans so he could stay in D.C. and ensure that “LAW & ORDER is enforced.” Trump had planned to spend the weekend in New Jersey, according to The Associated Press.
Trump has been vocal about protecting the country’s monuments, statues, and memorials, especially those that commemorate Confederate leaders.
During the nationwide protests that started after the death of George Floyd, statues of Confederate leaders and monuments dedicated to Confederate leaders have been the target of protesters’ rage. For many, the statues are seen as monuments to systemic racism rather than monuments to a historical period. Opponents of Confederate monuments see them as glorifying racist leaders and the legacy of slavery. Taking them down has become a tangible way to send a message about abolishing systemic racism.
Several statues around the country have been broken, torn down, or vandalized in other ways during protests against police brutality and racism.