WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order he says is intended to protect monuments and statues from “anarchists and left-wing extremists”.
“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,” he said in the order, released by the White House on Friday night.
He added that “any person or any entity that destroys, damages, vandalises, or desecrates a monument, memorial, or statue within the United States or otherwise vandalises government property” would face prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
The order calls on the Justice Department to make a priority of those cases and instructs US agencies to possibly withhold money from cities and states that did not protect memorials from “destruction of vandalism”.
It cited the toppling of a statue of President Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco as an example of the “violent extremists’ campaign against our country”, but did not say that many of the monuments singled out by protesters in the wake of Mr George Floyd’s death had been of Confederate leaders.
Mr Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, as well as the demands for racial justice since his death were not mentioned.
The document echoes comments Mr Trump has made as the protests have unfolded.
With the coronavirus surging in many states and his Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead in polls, Mr Trump has cast aside expressions of support for peaceful protesters, and positioned himself as a “law and order candidate”.