As reports continue to surface of protesters defacing and destroying historical monuments, President Donald Trump this week issued a stern notice to those thinking of taking part in such acts.
According to The Washington Times, the president tweeted on Tuesday that anyone caught and arrested for vandalizing monuments could face a decade behind bars upon conviction.
“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,” Trump wrote.
“A healthy expression”
The president went on to assert not only that the order would be “effective immediately” but could also be “used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused.”
A series of monuments have been destroyed during demonstrations across the U.S. in recent days amid protests sparked by the death of George Floyd last month in Minneapolis.
While the outrage was initially focused on Confederate statues and monuments, the destruction soon expanded to include a range of historical American figures.
The demolition of certain statues has received some support among elected officials, including Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“It’s a healthy expression of people saying let’s get some priorities here and remember the sin and mistake that this nation made and let’s not celebrate it,” he said in a recent interview, as the Times reported.
“To borrow from Abraham Lincoln”
Trump and many Republicans, on the other hand, have taken a harsher stance, as exemplified in the president’s tweet and subsequent remarks on the subject. Both he and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) have cited the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act as a way to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
“To borrow from Abraham Lincoln, whose memorial in our nation’s capital was also defaced, ‘There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law,'” Cotton said in his remarks on the subject.
The idea of taking down monuments to Confederate generals has received some bipartisan support amid efforts to address racial inequity in America.
This movement has gone on to include the destruction of founding fathers and even a prominent abolitionist in recent days, though. If this trend progresses, it’d be no surprise to see Trump’s stance become increasingly popular among average citizens.