By Jeff Mason and Lisa Lambert
WASHINGTON, June 23 (.) – United States President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would issue a decree on the country’s historical monuments as a movement seeking to remove statues of figures considered racist is gathering momentum, part of nationwide protests against racial injustice.
« They are not going to tear down our monuments, » Trump told reporters at the White House. « I will prepare a decree shortly and what it is going to do is reinforce what already exists, but in a more uniform way, » he added.
Trump also announced that he will authorize « with immediate effect » the arrests of anyone caught damaging memorials to members of the armed services on federal land and threatened to use force against protesters in Washington.
The federal government, however, has for 17 years had the power to imprison or fine anyone who vandalizes or destroys a monument under the Veterans Memorials Act.
On Monday afternoon, protesters attempted to tear down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson near the White House. Jackson owned black slaves on a plantation and is remembered for forcibly displacing Native Americans from the south of the country, a fact known as « The Trail of Tears » and which caused the deaths of thousands of indigenous people.
Trump told reporters Tuesday that « numerous people » were incarcerated for trying to tear down the Jackson statue and that the federal government is « seeking long-term sentences. » (Additional report by Susan Heavey; Edited in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa)