President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday evening that seeks to protect federal monuments and properties by conditioning federal funding for state and local governments on compliance.
The order frames the recent moves by protesters across the country to topple various statues and monuments as “criminal acts,” organized by “agitators who have traveled across State lines to promote their own violent agenda.”
“In the last week, vandals toppled a statue of President Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco,” the order reads. “To them, it made no difference that President Grant led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War, enforced Reconstruction, fought the Ku Klux Klan, and advocated for the Fifteenth Amendment, which guaranteed freed slaves the right to vote. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the names of 507 veterans memorialized on a World War II monument were painted over with a symbol of communism.”
Earlier this month, in Boston, a memorial commemorating an African-American regiment that fought in the Civil War was defaced with graffiti. In Madison, Wisconsin, rioters knocked over the statue of an abolitionist immigrant who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Christian figures are now in the crosshairs, too. Recently, an influential activist for one movement that has been prominent in setting the agenda for demonstrations in recent weeks declared that many existing religious depictions of Jesus and the Holy Family should be purged from our places of worship.
The text directs Attorney General Bill Barr and the Justice Department to prosecute any individual or group who “destroys, damages, vandalizes, or desecrates” both secular and religious monuments or statues. Barr is also directed to prosecute “any person or any entity that participates in efforts to incite violence or other illegal activity in connection with the riots and acts of vandalism.”
Finally, the order indicates that all “state and local governments that have failed to protect public monuments, memorials, and statues from destruction or vandalism” will not receive funding from federal grants and orders executive branch agency heads to make sure all federally-funded programs are compliant with the order.
Trump first touted the EO following attempts by protesters to topple the statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square near the White House.
BREAKING from Lafayette Square in front of The White House pic.twitter.com/jkRBdfUMRu
— RichieMcG (@RichieMcGinniss) June 23, 2020
“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,” he tweeted at the time. “This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!” (EXCLUSIVE: Trump Activating 400 National Guard Troops Through July 8 To Protect Federal Monuments In DC)
The Trump administration also activated 400 National Guard troops to deter protesters from targeting monuments in Washington, D.C. The Defense Department confirmed to the Daily Caller that troops will remain active through July 8.