President Trump promised on Wednesday to protect the statues as some activists call for the overthrow of monuments to former presidents, controversial historical figures and even Jesus Christ, after initially attacking Confederate figures.
Trump, who promised to sign an executive order before the weekend to protect public statues and federal monuments, said any continuation of the monument collapse “is not going to happen.”
“They are looking at Jesus Christ, they are looking at George Washington, they are looking at Abraham Lincoln, they are looking at Thomas Jefferson,” Trump said during a press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Rose of the White House. Garden. “It’s not going to happen.”
The president made no specific reference to who was asking for the statues to be removed, but liberal activist Shaun King tweeted Monday that “the statues of white Europeans who claim that Jesus should also come down.”
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“Yes, I think the statues of white Europeans claiming that Jesus should come down too. They are a form of white supremacy. I always have been, ”King tweeted. “In the Bible, when Jesus’ family wanted to hide, and mingle, guess where they went? EGYPT! Do not demark. Shoot them down.
While groups for years have been calling for the removal of monuments to the Confederacy and other historical figures who espoused racist or xenophobic ideas, the movement to topple them has gained new momentum following the death of George Floyd last month in police custody of Minneapolis and the protests that followed.
On Monday, an attempt was made to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, near the White House. There was also a second incident directed at nearby St. John’s Church and the prior vandalism of the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. Some people have also promised to tear down a statue of Abraham Lincoln this week in Lincoln Park on federal park property on Capitol Hill.
The initial statues under fire were those of Confederate soldiers and generals largely in the south, but anger has spread to monuments beyond that historical period.
On Thursday, protesters in Portland, Oregon, knocked down a statue of former President George Washington. On Friday, protesters in San Francisco defaced and demolished the statue of former President Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union Army during the Civil War.
Andrew Jackson, who has faced anger today over his harsh treatment of Native Americans, was the latest historical figure to be attacked by protesters demanding that monuments and memorials be demolished to those with racist pasts. Reuters reported that while protesters were unable to tear down the Jackson statue, it was defaced on Monday night with a “murderous scum” written on the pedestal.
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Sources told Fox News on Wednesday that the text of Trump’s executive order is still being finalized. But the president said in a tweet earlier this week that people who disfigure, damage, or destroy federal monuments and statues should receive “up to 10 years in prison.”
It is unclear, at this time, whether the executive order would go beyond that, but the president said Tuesday that it would simply “reinforce what already exists, but in a more uniform manner.”
“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who destroys or destroys any federal monument, statute, or other property in the United States with up to 10 years in prison, in accordance with the Veteran Monument Preservation Act or any other law that may be relevant, Trump tweeted Tuesday.
“This action is effective immediately, but it can also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused,” he added. “There will be no exceptions!
John Roberts and Ronn Blitzer of Fox News contributed to this report.