President Donald Trump has said removing the statues of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson in Washington, DC “is not going to happen” while he is around, but the delegate representing the city in Congress is trying to do that.
Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is black, said she will introduce a bill in the House next week to remove the two federal land statues in the District: Jackson’s from Lafayette Park in front of the White House and Lincoln’s near the Capitol.
The confrontation comes as protesters say they will try to tear down the Lincoln statue on Friday night and after Trump’s promise to sign an executive order “before the end of the week” to facilitate the prosecution of those who attack statues with ” long-term jail. ” hour.”
It also occurs amid a national reckoning with the country’s racist foundation in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“I think a lot of the people who are tearing down these statues don’t even have a clue what the statue is, what it means, who it is,” Trump said Wednesday at the Rose Garden. “Now they are looking at Jesus Christ. They are looking at George Washington. They are looking at Abraham Lincoln. Thomas Jefferson. It is not going to happen. It is not going to happen, not while I am here.”
Holmes Norton says he knows the history of the statues he’s struggling to tear down very well.
The “Emancipation Memorial”, located in Lincoln Park, near the Supreme Court and the United States Capitol, depicts a heroic Abraham Lincoln with his hand symbolically giving the blessing of liberty on a newly freed kneeling slave .
She has no problem with Lincoln himself, who ended slavery, but with the way the statue was created and the power relationship depicted, saying it was “controversial from the start” and instead belongs to a Museum.
“Although formerly enslaved Americans paid for the construction of this statue in 1876, the design and sculpture process was carried out without their input, and it shows. The statue in no way notes how enslaved African Americans pushed for their own emancipation. Understandably , were recently released from slavery and appreciated any recognition of their freedom, “he said.
She notes that Frederick Douglass, in his opening address at the statue’s unveiling, also expressed his displeasure.
Holmes Norton has also called for the Jackson statue to be removed from Lafayette Park, a replica of which Trump placed behind his desk in the Oval Office, after protesters failed to tear it down on Monday night.
“This prominent location in the nation’s capital, just outside the White House, should never have honored a man who owned slaves and was responsible for the deaths of approximately 4,000 American Indians,” he said in a statement. “All of Jackson’s tenure is a shameful part of our history, and I will see that he is no longer honored with a statue in Lafayette Park.”
President Trump, who has called himself a “fanatic” for Jackson, responded to the protests by threatening to go to jail via Twitter. Additional fences and barricades were put up in Lafayette Park the next morning.
Trump has increased his rhetoric against what he calls “vandals, thugs, anarchists, and agitators” by attacking statues.
He scolded states on Wednesday night for allowing “itinerant gangs of sages, anarchists, and looters” to remove statues, saying that “they all represent our history and heritage, both good and bad.”
While Trump and Holmes Norton disagree about what happens to the statues, a clash could soon ensue between the protesters and the police.
At least one group called “The Freedom Neighborhood” has made plans to return to Lincoln Park on Friday night and attempt to remove the statue, after a protest Tuesday night in which they argued that the government rejected calls for their removal for years.
“This statue here represents white supremacy and black disempowerment that whites oblige us. That’s why we’re tearing down this statue,” organizer Glenn Foster, 20, told the group on Tuesday. promised to return Friday at 7pm
Trump has yet to directly respond to calls to remove the Emancipation Monument just miles from the White House, but he certainly is aware of protests in the District.
After a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike was demolished and burned by protesters on June 19 in front of the DC police headquarters, Trump informed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to replace it, according to NBC News. .
“It is the intention of the National Park Service to mitigate any damage to any statue, monument or monument damaged due to any criminal activity,” Alexandra Picavet, chief spokeswoman, said in a statement to ABC News on Thursday.
The White House late Wednesday declined to comment, but Trump and Bernhardt appear to be on the same page.
Following Monday’s protests and attempts to remove the Jackson statue, Bernhardt, who heads the agency charged with protecting public lands, issued a statement condemning the scene.
“I just left Lafayette Square where another so-called” peaceful protest “led to destruction tonight. Let me be clear: we will not bow to anarchists,” the statement released Tuesday said. “Law and order will prevail, and justice will be done.”
Authorities say the DC National Guard remains on standby, if necessary, to protect the statues.
ABC News’ John Parkinson, Stephanie Ebbs, and Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.