Demonstrators were undaunted Monday evening after police used tear gas to stop them from tearing down a statue of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States and main architect of the Trail of Tears.
Protesters broke into wire fencing that had been erected earlier to protect the statue in Lafayette Square, climbed the sculpture and tried to bring it down. Others chipped away at the base of the statue located near the White House, reported WUSA-TV, which was broadcasting live Monday night.
Police dispersed them, allegedly using pepper spray, WUSA reported. Other cops came and pushed the protesters out with bikes.
The statue shows Jackson in a military uniform, riding a horse that is rearing on its hind legs. The 19th century president’s ruthless treatment of Native Americans has made his statue a target of demonstrators protesting the United States’ legacy of racial injustice, as the Associated Press noted.
His visage also adorns the $20 bill.
Earlier in the day, protesters managed to get astride the statue and attempted to topple it with chains.
Jackson earned the moniker “Indian Killer” for his forced removal of thousands of indigenous people from the southeastern United States on a journey that killed many of them, so that white settlers could take the land. It was he who pushed the Indian Removal Act through Congress, as PBS recounts in a detailed history.
President Trump Monday night tweeted about the “disgraceful vandalism” of the “magnificent Statue of Andrew Jackson,” who is a hero of his, and threatened “10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!”
The destruction of property is what got under Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s skin.
“I just left Lafayette Square where another so called ‘peaceful protest’ led to destruction tonight,” he said in a statement. “Let me be clear: We will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served.”
Protesters and police were still in a standoff late Monday evening. The statue was still standing.
Earlier in the day, reporters were asked to leave the White House grounds, “a highly unusual decision that did not immediately come with an explanation,” reported CNN.
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