Four men have been federally charged with defacing and attempting to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson near the White House earlier this week.
The suspects: Lee Michael Cantrell, 47; Connor Matthew Judd, 20; Ryan Lane, 37; and Graham Lloyd, 37, are charged with the destruction of federal property, US Capital Prosecutor Michael Sherwin announced Saturday night.
The announcement came a day after President Trump signed an executive order cracking down on protesters who disfigure or tear down controversial statues during civil unrest across the country in the police murder of George Floyd.
Trump has promised that prosecutors will pursue 10-year prison terms under the Veterans Memorial Preservation Act against anyone who targets the monuments.
Sherwin said Saturday that the federal government hopes to give an example of the alleged vandals.
“[T]These charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: Their violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated, “Sherwin said in a statement.
Protesters in various cities have smashed or demolished statues of men linked to slavery or other forms of brutality.
Protesters in Washington, DC, had targeted the Lafayette Square memorial to the seventh slave-owning president, whose Indian removal law forced the violent, sometimes fatal, displacement of tens of thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homes on millions of acres in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida.
Prosecutors allege that the four suspects, who hail from DC, Maine, Maryland and Virginia, are among more than a dozen people caught on camera on Monday night who are trying to knock down the statue with rope and other objects.
Cantrell was allegedly caught on video trying to lift the statue off its base with a wooden board and attempting to knock down the statue with a yellow strap.
Lane, Judd and Lloyd were also allegedly pulling a rope that was tied to the statue in an attempt to knock it down.
Judd was arrested Friday and appeared before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Saturday, but the other three suspects remain at large, according to Sherwin’s office.
Trump on Saturday night tweeted more than a dozen U.S. Park Police flyers with images of suspects believed to have attacked the monument on Monday.
A multi-agency investigation into vandalism is underway between the U.S. Park Police, the Violent Crime Task Force of the FBI Field Office in Washington and the Washington Metropolitan Police Department.