More than 100 people have been arrested for vandalizing statues and monuments in the US amid the protests against racism and police brutality that have gripped the nation, while some 200 investigations for “domestic terrorism” were underway, the White House announced.
“Over 100 anarchists have been arrested for rioting and destruction of Federal property. The FBI has over 200 open domestic terrorism investigations on-going,” said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany at a Monday press conference, adding that “anarchy” in US streets was “unacceptable” and castigating the Democrats for what she said was failed leadership.
Following criticism of the Donald Trump administration over the removal of statues and other symbols of the Confederate States – which attempted to secede from the Union in 1861 to, among other things, preserve slavery in the South, given that it was the backbone of their agricultural economy, McEnany emphasized that “law and order” were basic components of the American Dream, reports Efe news.
She said that “Attorney General (William) Barr has created a task force on violent anti-government extremists led by the US Attorney’s office in New Jersey and the US Attorney’s office in Northern Texas. With 200 Trump-appointed judges confirmed, the rule of law will be upheld”, referring to the approximate number of conservatives judges appointed to courts around the US so far during Trump’s presidency.
McEnany said that the Justice Department had filed charges against four men for allegedly trying to topple the statue of former President Andrew Jackson, who governed from 1829-1837, in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House.
She also listed events that occurred in Minneapolis, where African-American George Floyd was murdered by a white cop on May 25, sparking the protests that have spread nationwide and internationally.
She also referred to one death and several shootings in Seattle, where demonstrators established a police-free zone that they occupied as a Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, as well as 11 people who were wounded in less than 12 hours in New York and 61 injured by gunfire in Chicago.
Acting US Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said in a statement: “The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed.”
“This Office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: your violent behaviour and criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”
McEnany also expressed the opposition of the Trump administration to the demands that have gathered steam in some quarters during the demonstrations to “defund the police”.
On June 26, Trump signed an executive order on “Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence”, an order which cites several statutes.
Those statutes on prosecuting and sentencing can result in sentences of up to 10 years in prison for those convicted of breaching them and includes religious property.
In the executive order, Trump said: “My Administration will not allow violent mobs incited by a radical fringe to become the arbiters of the aspects of our history that can be celebrated in public spaces. State and local public officials’ abdication of their law enforcement responsibilities in deference to this violent assault must end.”