WASHINGTON (CN) — With statues memorializing figures of the Confederacy torn down or vandalized by protesters across the nation at an increasing clip, President Donald Trump on Friday said he has issued an executive order upping the prison sentences for those caught destroying monuments or statues on federal property.
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues — and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!” Trump tweeted.
The order declares it “the policy of the United States” for anyone who damages a monument or statue “to the fullest extent possible under federal law.”
“Individuals and organizations have the right to peacefully advocate for either the removal or the construction of any monument,” the order states. “But no individual or group has the right to damage, deface, or remove any monument by the use of force.”
The order also allows the use of federal personnel to protect federal monuments and directs federal agencies to examine their grant programs and limit the amount of money that goes to law enforcement agencies “that permit the desecration of monuments, memorials or statues.”
The maneuver comes after protesters demonstrating on Lafayette Square, just within view of the White House, attempted to topple a statute of the anti-abolitionist President Andrew Jackson. Jackson also signed the Indian Removal Act which displaced, killed and sickened thousands of Native Americans in what became known as the Trail of Tears.
Protesters and police clashed briefly after demonstrators surrounded the statue and attempted to bring it down with ropes. Pepper spray was used to break up the crowd and only two people were arrested, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
In a tweet after the incident, Trump called those demonstrators “hoodlums” and “anarchists” hell bent on vandalizing a “magnificent” statue.