President Trump took to Twitter late Monday to announce that “numerous people were arrested” in Washington, D.C., as protesters attempted to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square Park and—once again—targeted the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“Numerous people arrested in D.C. for the disgraceful vandalism, in Lafayette Park, of the magnificent Statue of Andrew Jackson, in addition to the exterior defacing of St. John’s Church across the street,” Trump tweeted. “10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!”
David L. Bernhardt, the secretary of the Interior Department, said he visited Lafayette Square and witnessed the destruction. He said the country “will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served.”
The full extent of the damage is not yet clear. The Lincoln Memorial and WWII Memorial had been defaced in earlier protests, and on Monday night, the Jackson statue was also defaced. Reuters reported that “killer scum” was written on the pedestal. Ropes were tied to the statue in an effort to topple it, but the statement said “law enforcement officers ensured that this would not happen.”
Protesters broke down a fence that was surrounding the statue just after dusk, Reuters reported. The statement said surrounding cannons in the statue were destroyed.
Social media posts from journalists in the area report that protesters are setting up camp near Lafayette Park in a similar fashion to Seattle’s CHOP. Fox 5 DC reported that protesters spraypainted “BHAZ” on the columns of St. John’s Church, which was apparently a reference to a “Black Autonomous Zone.” The news station reported that U.S. Park Police and city police managed to close the area off to protesters. Reuters reported that these officers swung their batons in the effort.
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NBC Washington reported that as of 10:30 p.m. local time, protesters were standing at the border of the park. Police said some officers were injured during these confrontations and some protesters threw unknown objects at these officers, police said. The report said that two people were arrested.
Police used a chemical irritant to disperse the crowd and officers were hit with objects. Fox News has confirmed that the U.S. Secret Service asked reporters to leave the White House grounds nearby. The specific reason wasn’t clear.
Jackson, who has faced ire in the present day for his severe treatment of Native Americans, was the latest historical figure targeted by protesters demanding monuments and memorials to those with racist pasts be taken down.
Earlier this month, Trump clashed with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser over deploying federal forces in the city in order to protect government assets during unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody.
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When things calmed down, Trump took to Twitter to write that the troops were headed home “but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!”
Fox News’ Louis Casiano, Kevin Corke, Ashley Cozzolino and the Associated Press contributed to this report