WASHINGTON • Four men have been charged over attempting to remove a statue of former president Andrew Jackson from outside the White House as part of anti-racism protests in the United States.
President Donald Trump, who is trying to position himself as a standard-bearer for law and order with less than five months to go before November’s presidential election, tweeted calls by police last Saturday to identify more than a dozen other demonstrators who took part in the action.
He posted photos of 15 people the US Park Police said it is attempting to identify, “who are responsible for vandalising property” in a park in front of the White House.
A black man in one of the photos is wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, and a white man in another has a shirt with the slogan “I Can’t Breathe”.
The President last Friday circulated a Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted poster with the images of the 15 people to his 82.5 million Twitter followers. On Saturday, individual tweets were sent for each person, mostly in a three-minute burst shortly after 6pm.
The striking social media posts come as Mr Trump intensified his verbal attacks on protests demonstrating against police brutality that erupted following the death of Mr George Floyd, an African American killed by a white police officer on May 25 in Minnesota.
Mr Trump also lashed out at the Black Lives Matter movement in an interview published on Saturday, saying its agenda was “extremist” and criticising New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio for floating the idea of painting the slogan on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, near Trump Tower.
Last Monday evening, a group of protesters attacked the statue of former president Jackson – a slave owner who led the US from 1829 to 1837 – which stands in Lafayette Park next to the White House.
They wrapped ropes around the monument and tried to knock it down. Based on video footage, four were identified tying or pulling the ropes, or passing a hammer to another demonstrator.
Aged between 20 and 47, they were charged last Friday with “destruction of federal property”, a charge punishable by one to 10 years in prison.
One of them was arrested on Friday and presented to a judge the next day, while the other three were named but have not yet been apprehended, the Washington prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Saturday.
“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,” wrote Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin.
Mr Floyd’s death ignited mass civil unrest across the country. On the sidelines of those protests, several statues, including those of Confederate generals and pro-slavery leaders, have been targeted or pulled down.
Mr Trump, who is running for a second term, on Friday signed an executive order pledging to enforce prosecution for protesters who vandalise public memorials.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG