KEY POINTS

  • Trump orders the Attorney General and the DOJ to prioritize the prosecution of people who destroy or deface monuments
  • The president signed an executive order similar to the Veterans' Memorial Preservation Act
  • The executive order differs in that states and law enforcement agencies may have their Federal support withheld if they fail at protecting monuments

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday (June 26), directing Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of those who destroy or vandalize monuments.

Trump threatened on Twitter that these "lawless acts" will be sanctioned with "long prison terms."

The executive order "authorizes a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment for the willful injury of Federal property."

The president has, previously, tweeted the same threats against the destruction of historical sites, amid rising mob violence that started with the protests against police brutality and racism after George Floyd's death on May 25.

While these sanctions also fall under the Veterans' Memorial Preservation Act, which the president himself held out repeatedly, a key difference in the executive order includes imposing a limitation on states and local law enforcement agencies that cannot protect these monuments.

Trump said that they "will be subject to the withholding of Federal support."

CNN reported that the allies of the president have been asking the White House to act on these infractions to show his leadership.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany underscored that Trump took "swift action to protect and preserve our nation’s history from mob violence by signing an executive order directing the enforcement of laws that carry firm penalties of incarceration for those found guilty of desecrating public monuments."

Among the monuments destroyed and defaced during the violence are statues of the two Founding Fathers and former presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, which were torn down in Portland.

Washington's statue, erected in the 1920s, was spray-painted with the words "You are on native lands" and "Genocidal Colonist." Jefferson's monument, outside of a high school, was spray-painted with "slave owner" and the name of Floyd.

Portland,_OR_-_George_Washington_statue_and_German-American_Society_01 George Washington's statue in Portland, erected in the 1920s, was spray painted with the words, "You are on native lands," and "Genocidal Colonist." Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The statue of former president Ulysses S. Grant was taken down by nearly 400 people in San Francisco. Grant had pardoned Confederate leaders and critics said he owned a slave, per Fox News.

The statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg, a Union war hero who fought to end slavery, also fell down in Wisconsin. Protestors also attempted to topple the statue of former president Andrew Jackson at the Lafayette Square near the White House.

Trump said in a tweet that "many people" are, now in custody for this action and he again said they will get 10 years in prison.