The United States Marshals Service was reportedly asked by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to help the Trump administration in its efforts to protect national monuments across the country.
Marshals Service Assistant Director Andrew Smith, in an email obtained by The Washington Post, stated that the U.S. Marshals were told to provide federal law enforcement assistance after a number of federal statues were targeted by vandalism. The email’s subject line said “Attorney General Assignment,” indicating the directive came from Attorney General Bill Barr.
The Marshals Incident Management Team would prepare to start a joint operations center to deploy and coordinate U.S. Marshals across the country, The Washington Post reported.
Protesters, during a demonstration Monday, attempted to take down the statue of former president Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park, next to the White House, although riot police were deployed to disperse the crowd. (RELATED: DC Protests Largely Peaceful After National Guard Called In)
After the incident, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was authorizing the federal government to arrest anyone who damages or destroys federal property, which includes numerous statues and monuments. Around 400 members of the D.C. National Guard were activated Wednesday following the protests.
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…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
A number of national monuments and statues have been vandalized during demonstrations sparked by George Floyd’s death. Monuments in the capital’s National Mall, including a World War II memorial, were defaced in late May.
The U.S. Marshals, who are authorized by the DOJ, are generally involved in assignments like apprehending fugitives and protecting witnesses. It is currently unclear how many Marshals would be deployed and what their assignment would look like in practice.
“We don’t confirm or deny any enforcement actions that we might take,” a Marshals Service spokesman told The Washington Post in a statement Wednesday.