NEWS
24/06/2020 08:10 BST | Updated 24/06/2020 08:17 BST

Trump Threatens Ten Year Prison Penalty For Black Lives Matter Protesters Who Topple Statues

People have vented their anger over racial injustice by pulling down statues of figures tied to America’s racist history.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Donald Trump has authorised the arrest of anyone who destroys or vandalises statues and said he wants to hand down prison sentences of up to ten years for this crime.

This is the maximum federal penalty and the president said the executive order would “reinforce” existing law.

“We are looking at long-term jail sentences for these vandals and these hoodlums and these anarchists and agitators,” Trump said, referring to protesters who have vented their anger over racial injustice by toppling statues of figures tied to America’s racist history.

He spoke out after an attempt on Monday night to bring down a Lafayette Park statue of Andrew Jackson, one of Trump’s favourite presidents, was foiled by police in the park across from the White House.

Trump argued the pendulum has swung too far in favour of removing statues and other symbols of flawed history, and saying mistakes will be repeated if not learned from and understood.

The president’s campaign also sees the divide over this latest cultural flash point as a way to boost the president’s standing, which has suffered during his handling of the coronavirus outbreak and the protests over racial injustice that followed George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

Trump’s comments came as civic officials in historic Charleston, South Carolina, voted unanimously to remove a statue of former vice president and slavery advocate John C Calhoun from a downtown square.

He has spent weeks demanding “law and order” in response to the protests sparked by Floyd’s death by police.

He promised executive action to protect monuments after some statues of Confederates and other historical figures with dodgy track records on race were angrily brought down from parks and other places of public prominence.

Trump called it a “sneak attack” on the statue of Jackson, who owned slaves and was ruthless in his treatment of Native Americans.

“We should learn from the history,” he told Fox News in a taped interview broadcast on Tuesday. “And if you don’t understand your history, you will go back to it again.”

The president’s campaign sees the attempts to remove statues as a potential presidential lifeline.

The campaign argues that liberals are dramatically overreaching by embracing calls to “defund the police” and remove statues of American icons taught in history books.

Trump’s previous defence of Confederate statues and military bases named after such figures amounted to a political risk in the current climate.

Meanwhile, in a 13-0 vote, the Charleston City Council authorised the Calhoun statue to be removed from downtown Marion Square, saying it would be placed permanently at “an appropriate site where it will be protected and preserved.”