US President Donald Trump on Friday signed an executive order to protect monuments, memorials and statues.
Trump had promised to take action earlier this week after police thwarted an attempt by people to pull down a statue of former US president Andrew Jackson in a park across from the White House.
The order calls on the US attorney-general to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any person or group who destroys or vandalizes a monument, memorial or statue.
Federal law authorizes a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for the “willful injury” of federal property.
The order also calls for maximum prosecution for anyone who incites violence and illegal activity, and it threatens state and local law enforcement agencies that fail to protect monuments with the loss of federal funding.
Trump announced earlier on Friday on Twitter that he had signed the order and called it “strong.”
Earlier in the day, Trump called for the arrest of the people involved with the attempt to bring down the Jackson statue in Lafayette Park.
He retweeted an FBI wanted poster showing pictures of 15 people wanted for “vandalization of federal property.”
Trump wrote, “MANY people in custody, with many others being sought for Vandalization of Federal Property in Lafayette Park. 10 year prison sentences!”
He also wrote that he had scrapped plans to spend the weekend at his central New Jersey home to stay in Washington “to make sure LAW & ORDER is enforced.”
“These arsonists, anarchists, looters, and agitators have been largely stopped,” he wrote. “I am doing what is necessary to keep our communities safe _ and these people will be brought to Justice!”
People on Monday attempted to drag the Jackson statue down with ropes and chains. Police repelled the protesters and sealed off Lafayette Park.
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