Trump threatens statue vandals with arrest and 10 year prison sentence

23 June 2020, 12:11

Workers clean the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington D.C
Workers clean the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington D.C. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

US President Donald Trump claims he has authorised the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalises statues amid Black Lives Matter protests and has warned that anyone who damages a statue will face up to 10 years in prison.

The President's message comes after protesters in Washington DC attempted to pull down a statue of former US President Andrew Jackson near the White House before being dispersed by police.

WUSA-TV in Washington reported on Monday night that police used pepper spray to move protesters out of Lafayette Square, where the Jackson statue is located.

Videos posted on social media showed that the protesters had climbed onto the statue and tied ropes around it, before trying to pull it off its pedestal.

Statues and memorials across the globe have come under attack amid racial-equality protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the USA.

President Trump used Twitter to pass the message to his 82.3 million followers, he said: "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, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent....."

Adding: "This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!"

Trump tweeted late on Monday that "numerous people" had been arrested for "the disgraceful vandalism".

He added: "10 years in prison under the Veteran's Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!"

US interior secretary David Bernhardt issued a statement, saying: "Let me be clear: We will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served."

On June 1, law enforcement officers forcefully cleared peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square in order for Mr Trump to stage a photo op at a nearby church.