WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning tweeted that he has "authorized" the federal government to "arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S."
Trump wrote that it would be punishable with up to 10 years through the Veterans Memorial Preservation Act. One part of the 2003 law states that whoever destroys or attempts to destroy a plaque, monument or statue "commemorating the service" of any persons in the armed forces will be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 10 years.
"This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions," the president tweeted.
The tweets come as the movement to pull down Confederate monuments around the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police has extended to statues of slave traders, imperialists, conquerors and explorers around the world, including Christopher Columbus, Cecil Rhodes and Belgium’s King Leopold II.
Protesters tried to pull down a statue of President Andrew Jackson near the White House Monday night before being dispersed by police.
In the U.S., the May 25 death of Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck, has led to an all-out effort to remove symbols of the Confederacy and slavery.
In the most recent incident, protesters in Washington D.C. Monday night tried to remove an Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square. Police responded to the scene before the statue was removed.
U.S. Park Police said Tuesday that two officers were injured and two protesters were arrested during Monday's incident.
Trump tweeted late Monday that “Numerous people” had been arrested for “the disgraceful vandalism.” He added: “10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!”
Jackson is one of Trump's favorite presidents.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.