The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will deploy members of a newly formed special federal task force to protect monuments across the country from vandalism over Independence Day weekend.
In a Wednesday press release, acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf announced the formation of the Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), as well as its first mission to protect federal monuments and property this weekend.
“As we approach the July 4th holiday, I have directed the deployment and pre-positioning of Rapid Deployment Teams (RDT) across the country to respond to potential threats to facilities and property,” said Wolf. “While the Department respects every American’s right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated.”
The PACT unit comes amid a wave of statue toppling efforts across the country. Recent demonstrations saw attempts to topple a statue of President Andrew Jackson standing outside the White House in Washington D.C.
Following the unrest in front of the White House, Trump announced he had authorized federal agencies to begin strictly enforcing laws pertaining to the protection of monuments and federal property. Some of those laws carry a 10-year prison term for those convicted in attempts to vandalize veterans memorials and government property.
On Friday, Trump also signed an executive order directing the DHS to provide personnel to protect monuments.
“DHS is answering the President’s call to use our law enforcement personnel across the country to protect our historic landmarks,” Wolf said earlier in his remarks. “We won’t stand idly by while violent anarchists and rioters seek not only to vandalize and destroy the symbols of our nation, but to disrupt law and order and sow chaos in our communities.”
The DHS press release indicated the PACT unit would also conduct ongoing assessments of civil unrest and destruction and be prepared for “surge activity” to ensure additional protection to monuments where its needed. According to an internal memo obtained and reported by Fox News, those surge RDTs can be flown into any other area within a few hours, should situations require it in other cities.
According to the memo, Wolf had determined the July 4th holiday weekend has an increased potential for civil unrest and that he wanted the DHS to be “forward leaning in preparing to protect federal facilities and property.”
The DHS press release also indicated the department will coordinate information sharing with the Department of Interior and the Department of Justice.