Trump threatens prison time after protesters attempt to topple Andrew Jackson statue near White House
WASHINGTON - President Trump threatened to overthrow statues with arrests and long terms after a night of White House protests in which some protesters attempted to tear down a statue of President Andrew Jackson.
"I authorized the federal government to arrest anyone who destroys or destroys a memorial, statue, or other such federal property in the United States with up to 10 years imprisonment under the Veteran's Memorial Preservation Act or other relevant laws. .... “Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
The statue of Andrew Jackson stands in Lafayette Square, which is directly opposite the White House complex.
According to federal law, damage to federal property exceeding $ 100 can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $ 250,000, although it rarely happens that a judge issues the full sentence. Cases of graffiti are usually prosecuted as offenses, and many of the statues that demonstrators have targeted in recent weeks are state-owned and would not be covered by federal law.
Protesters attach a chain to a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square in front of the White House to tear it down on Monday. (Tom Brenner / Reuters)
The Lafayette Square area was a focus of protests in Washington, DC after the death of George Floyd on May 25. The demonstrators there clashed with law enforcement officials from a number of federal and local government agencies, which on June 1 cleared the crowd using aggressive methods, including tear gas, so Trump could take a photo in front of St. John's Church.
In the weeks since the first demonstrations across the country, demonstrators have increasingly focused on removing monuments from characters in American history associated with racism.
Protesters clashing with U.S. Park Police and DC Metropolitan Police Department officials Monday night told Yahoo News that law enforcement officers were using pepper spray and truncheons when trying to clear tents that were in the middle of nearby H Street 16th Street on the outskirts of Lafayette Square.
The park police and the Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
Protesters clash with the US park police near the White House on Monday. (Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)
Traffic has been interrupted in the area in recent weeks, and demonstrators have been allowed to gather on H Street and some surrounding blocks in Lafayette Square. On June 5, Mayor Muriel Bowser in Washington, DC, even renamed a two-block stretch that included space near Lafayette Square to Black Lives Matter Plaza.
On Monday evening, demonstrators tried to overthrow the statue of Jackson, a president who has been proven to have slaves and oppressed Indians, who was nevertheless celebrated by Trump. Graffiti sprayed by some demonstrators labeled the area "BHAZ" or "Black House Autonomous Zone" in a clear echo from protesters in Seattle.
In the midst of the protests on Monday evening, the secret service asked the reporters to leave the White House complex in an unusual step. A spokesman for the secret service said "four media representatives were misdirected during the demonstrations."
A woman near Lafayette Square reacts to being hit by pepper spray. (Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)
"The press representatives were redirected to the exits on the south side of the complex for their own safety," the spokesman said.
As a rule, the press corps is included in the facility in the event of security incidents.
Protesters who spoke to Yahoo News on Monday evening and early Tuesday morning said they wanted to prevent the police from removing them from the streets on the outskirts of Lafayette Square. They spent hours competing with the park police and the DC Metropolitan Police, who were dressed in protective clothing.
"We won't let them take this road back," said a woman wearing a gas mask who said her name was Zeus X. "This is our headquarters for protests."
When they tried to assert themselves, the demonstrators used equipment that many had brought with them and appeared to be prepared for skirmishes with the police, including helmets, goggles, gas masks, respirators, and large wooden shields that were scattered around the crowd. While demonstrators sang and shouted the lines of the police, a young black woman with short hair cut a megaphone to criticize her for protecting Jackson's statue.
"You didn't even protect us," said the woman. "You protect metal marble ***, that doesn't matter."
Protesters in the Black Lives Matter Plaza in front of St. John's Episcopal Church on Monday. (Tom Brenner / Reuters)
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