US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order threatening long prison terms as he continues to rail against widespread demonstrations to remove Confederate-era monuments and other statues across the US in the wake of renewed calls to dismantle symbols of white supremacy.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Twitter that those who vandalize our monuments will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
It was not immediately clear what’s in the order, as federal law already prohibits vandalizing or destroying certain monuments punishable up to 10 years in prison. US Marshals could be deployed as security, according to reports.
President Trump who has called for retribution against vandals amid demonstrations against racial injustice has raged against protesters targeting statues, including monuments to the Confederacy.
Outside the White House on Monday, protesters attempted to tear down a statue to former President Andrew Jackson, who has been targeted in demonstrations as a slave owner and supporter of the Indian Removal Act.
The following day, the president Trump called for 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.
But across the US, demonstrators have toppled several monuments to former Confederates, erected in the Jim Crow era after the Civil War, as several cities and state officials have argued that it’s time for those symbols to be removed from public view.
The president has also been criticized for his militarized response to demonstrations during the nation’s coronavirus crisis as several states see dramatic surges in cases and hospitalizations.
California congresswoman Maxine Waters also condemned the president’s threats this week, saying that – one would hope that the president of the United States would rise to the level of leadership that our country needs in confronting the deadly uptick in coronavirus cases in America.
Instead, we are left with Trump, an incompetent and heartless man who is more focused on saving statues of slaveholders, Confederate generals, and racists than protecting the health of living and breathing Americans, she said.