The U.S. justice department has announced charges against four men accused of damaging a statue of President Andrew Jackson near the White House, as Donald Trump retweeted a series of ‘wanted’ posters for 15 people accused of vandalism.
The four people were charged with destruction of federal property in connection with their alleged effort to tear down Jackson’s statue in Lafayette Square on June 22.
The bronze has stood there since 1853.
Jackson, a populist who admirers say reformed Washington DC, is a hero of Trump’s, and Trump chose his portrait to hang in the Oval Office. Jackson’s detractors point out that he was a slave owner who championed the ‘Trail of Tears’ policy of forcing Native Americans west of the Mississippi.
The four are Lee Michael Cantrell, 47, of Virginia; Connor Matthew Judd, 20, of Washington, D.C.; Ryan Lane, 37, of Maryland; and Graham Lloyd, 37, of Maine.
Protesters on Monday night are pictured attempting to pull down the statue of Trump’s hero
Demonstrators used chains to try and topple the bronze, which was placed there in 1853
Judd was arrested on Friday and appeared in Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Saturday.
The complaint, which was unsealed Saturday, states that on June 22, the four men participated in damaging the statue alongside other rioters, while also being captured on video ‘attempting to pry the statue off its base with a wooden board and trying to pull the statue down with the aid of a yellow strap.’
It also claims there is video evidence showing ‘Lloyd as he breaks off and destroys the wheels of cannons located at the base of the statue.’
The document states: ‘Lloyd is then captured on video pulling on ropes in an effort to topple the statue and handing a hammer to an unidentified individual involved in the incident.’
Lafayette Square, in front of the White House, has been the site of protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s May 25 death while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Protesters on Monday night once again congregated in Lafayette Square in Washington DC
A large crowd chanted outside the White House on Monday, demanding justice for Floyd
‘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,’ said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin.
In the demonstration on Monday, protesters scrawled ‘killer scum’ on the statue’s pedestal, fastened ropes and cords around the sculpted heads of both Jackson and his horse and doused the marble base with yellow paint before the crowd began trying to yank the statute from its base.
Dozens of law enforcement officers, led by U.S. Park Police, stormed into the square and scattered the protesters.
The movement to topple or deface monuments of Confederate war heroes and U.S. presidents with poor civil rights records has angered the president.
Donald Trump tweeted a series of ‘wanted’ posters seeking information about vandals
The posters asked anyone who knew those pictured to inform the authorities
The president on Friday signed an executive order aimed at protecting statues
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 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,’ he said 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.’
Trump on Friday shows off the executive order he signed to protect monuments and statues