The charges — the first brought in a federal court — come after President Donald Trump had promised a crackdown on those attempting to topple or deface monuments of Confederate war heroes and U.S. presidents with poor civil rights records, a trend that has emerged in cities across the country since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Trump, who said he scrapped plans to travel to his New Jersey golf club this weekend to ensure “LAW & ORDER” was enforced in the capital, on Saturday tweeted out wanted posters of people the U.S. Park Police believes were responsible for the destruction at the downtown park. He later tweeted the details of the Justice Department’s announcement.
On Friday, Trump signed an executive order aimed at protecting monuments and statues, making the issue a priority for the Justice Department.
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials and Statues – and combating recent Criminal Violence,” Trump announced on Twitter. “Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country.”
Trump has long derided — and pushed back against — efforts to bring down monuments, often calling them “foolish.”
“I think many of the people that are knocking down the statues don’t even have any idea what the statue is, what it means, who it is when they knocked down,” Trump said during a news conference on Wednesday. “Now they are looking at Jesus Christ, they are looking at George Washington, they’re looking at Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson. Not going to happen, not going to happen while I’m here.”