Washington, Jun 23 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened people who vandalize monuments and historic statues with 10 years behind bars, according to federal and other prevailing law, claiming that such penalties would also be retroactively applied to acts of vandalism committed in the past.
“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,” the president wrote on Monday morning on his Twitter account.
He added that the move, which he said will be implemented via an executive order he will shortly sign, will be retroactively effective, meaning that people who have committed this kind of vandalism before now will also be subject to the penalty, if convicted of damaging federal property.
The decision comes after, within the context of the racial protests in recent weeks, numerous statues of historic figures have been attacked, damaged and even toppled by protesters against racism in the US and in law enforcement departments.
The main targets of the demonstrators have been Confederate symbols – given that the Confederate states’ launched the Civil War in 1861 to defend, among other things, the institution of slavery on which their agricultural economy was largely based – which are in abundance in all Southern states, but statues of Spanish conquistadors and the “Founding Fathers” of the US have also been attacked.
Trump on Tuesday called these demonstrators “anarchists” before leaving the White House for Arizona to visit the border with Mexico, and he added that he would be ready to bring the situation under control – presumably using federal forces – if the states cannot do so.
The straw that broke the camel’s back seems to have been activities on Monday night near the White House, when federal law enforcement officers prevented a group of demonstrators from toppling the statue of former President Andrew Jackson (who governed from 1829-1837 and whom Trump has taken as something of a role model for his own presidency) on horseback in Lafayette Park, which is located near the main entrance to the presidential residence.
The protesters had already placed ropes and chains around the equestrian statue in preparation for pulling it down when police dispersed them using tear gas.
The statue of Jackson stands in the park that has been the epicenter of the racial protests in Washington because of its location near the White House.