President Donald Trump said his administration will withdraw federal funding from cities and municipalities that fail to protect statues, monuments, and government buildings.
On Friday, Trump signed a new executive order imposing stiff penalties on individuals who deface and desecrate these national treasures, including imprisonment.
“The new order enforces laws prohibiting the desecration of public monuments, the vandalism of government property, and recent acts of violence, withholds federal support tied to public spaces from state and local governments that have failed to protect public monuments, and withdraws federal grants for jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies that fail to stop their desecration,” Trump said.
The executive order was meant to warn communities that fail to keep protesters from defacing and destroying statues. Withdrawing federal funding would seriously cripple their local budget.
Desecrating federal buildings and monuments is already illegal, but the recent spate of violent acts has led Trump to use his federal powers.
At the same time, the administration promised additional funding and support to cities and states that house targeted monuments. They have also sent additional manpower to manage crowds and prevent damage to the said structures.
Major cities are having problems with protesters targeting, vandalizing, and even toppling monuments. Protesters are targeting monuments to past presidents, Catholic missionaries, and even abolitionist figures.
On Saturday, there was a heated confrontation at Lincoln Park, Washington D.C., in front of the Emancipation monument. Protesters gathered to demand the removal of the statue, which they say, showed subservience and not freedom. Crowds of black people also gathered to defend the monument, which was paid for by former slaves.
Since the executive order took effect, the government has listed down 15 people wanted for attempting to pull down the monument of President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square Park.
Six people have been arrested in connection with efforts to topple monuments, including six people who desecrated a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Additionally, Attorney General Bill Barr has formed a special task force to “share information with local and state law enforcement and provide training on identifying anti-government extremists”.
“MANY people in custody, with many others being sought for Vandalization of Federal Property in Lafayette Park. 10-year prison sentences! These arsonists, anarchists, looters, and agitators have been largely stopped,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
“I am doing what is necessary to keep our communities safe — and these people will be brought to Justice!”