US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to prosecute those who damage national monuments, making it a punishable offence with up to 10 years in jail.
The order comes in the wake of rioters defacing and destroying historical sites, monuments and statues in the country as violence erupted following the brutal custodial death of African-American George Floyd on May 25. The president has accused radical left for the violence.
Trump, in a strongly worded executive order on Friday, 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.”
Over the last five weeks, there has been a sustained assault on the life and property of civilians, law enforcement officers, government property and revered American monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial, Trump said.
“Many of the rioters, arsonists and left-wing extremists who have carried out and supported these acts have explicitly identified themselves with ideologies — such as Marxism — that call for the destruction of the United States system of government,” he said.
Under the order, the federal government is directed to prosecute any person or entity that damages or defaces religious property and withhold certain federal support from state and local governments that fail to protect public monuments, memorials and statues from destruction or vandalism.
Anarchists and left-wing extremists have sought to advance a fringe ideology that paints the United States of America as fundamentally unjust and have sought to impose that ideology on Americans through violence and mob intimidation, Trump said.
They have led riots in the streets, burned police vehicles, killed and assaulted government officers as well as business owners defending their property, and even seized an area within one city where law and order gave way to anarchy. During the unrest, innocent citizens also have been harmed and killed, the president rued.
“These criminal acts are frequently planned and supported by agitators who have traveled across state lines to promote their own violent agenda. These radicals shamelessly attack the legitimacy of our institutions and the very rule of law itself.
“Individuals and organisations have the right to peacefully advocate for either the removal or the construction of any monument. But no individual or group has the right to damage, deface, or remove any monument by use of force,” Trump said.
The law authorises a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment for the willful injury of a federal property. The executive order also directs that those who incite violence and illegal activity are prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law.
State and local law enforcement agencies that fail to protect monuments, memorials and statues will be subject to the withholding of federal support. The Attorney General will take all appropriate action against individuals and organisations found to have participated in unlawful acts — related to rioting and the destruction of federal property, as per the executive order.
“Rioters have defaced and torn down monuments and statues honoring some of the most important figures in our nation’s storied history,” the White House said.
In Portland, mobs tore down statues of our Founding Fathers –George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In San Francisco, rioters tore down a statue honoring Ulysses S Grant. There are even calls to remove statues of Abraham Lincoln in Boston and Washington, D.C.
A statue of Hans Christian Heg, who died fighting for the Union Army during the civil war, was torn down in Wisconsin.
“Today President Trump has taken swift action to protect and preserve our nation’s history from mob violence by signing an executive order directing the enforcement of laws that carry firm penalties of incarceration for those found guilty of desecrating public monuments,” White House Press Secretary said, adding that the order will provide assistance for the protection of federal monuments, memorials, statues and property.
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