Four hundred members of Washington D.C.’s National Guard have been activated in the nation’s capitol to protect statues and monuments facing toppling and defacement by demonstrators.
“The District of Columbia National Guard has sent unarmed troops to guard monuments and other infrastructure in support of local law enforcement agencies,” Washington, D.C. National Guard spokesperson Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Craig Clapper said Wednesday in a statement provided to USA Today.
Clapper said the 400 National Guard troops would not all be out on the streets at the same time.
Army spokesperson Col. Sunset Belinsky also National Guard troops had not yet been sent to defend monuments, at the time of USA Today’s report.
“They remain on standby at the National Guard Armory,” Belinsky said.
The Hill reported the National Guard units are expected to remain in the area until July 8, according to a Pentagon statement.
“They will support U.S. Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement reported by The Hill. “The National Guard personnel will not be armed, and will serve as a uniformed deterrence and crowd management capacity to maintain closures and restricted areas.”
The deployment of National Guard troops follows a wave of statue toppling and monument defacement in recent weeks following the death of a Black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
National Guard troops previously deployed to D.C. in response to protests and rioting in the weeks after Floyd’s death. President Donald Trump eventually ordered their removal around a week later.
Protests initially focused on the issue of police brutality surrounding Floyd’s death, but have since grown to address issues regarding the U.S. history on race related matters.
Activists eventually began to target statues of Confederate leaders, toppling monuments to individuals who seceded from the Union and defended the institution of slavery.
Those statue toppling incidents have grown to target other historic U.S. figures, including America’s first president, George Washington.
The World War II Memorial and Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. have also been tagged with graffiti in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump tweeted he had authorized federal law enforcement agencies to strictly enforce laws protecting monuments and statues from vandalism. He warned that violators could face up to 10 years imprisonment for such vandalism.
“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent,” Trump tweeted. “This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!”
…..This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020