Statement from White House Press Secretary 27 June

The first duty of government is to ensure domestic tranquility and defend the life, property, and rights of its citizens. Over the last 5 weeks, there has been a sustained assault on the life and property of civilians, law enforcement officers, government property, and revered American monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial. Today, President Donald J. Trump took decisive action to put an end to this lawlessness and protect American streets from vandalism and mob violence.

Rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists have sought to advance an ideology that paints the United States of America as fundamentally unjust and have sought to impose that ideology on Americans through violence and mob intimidation. They have led riots in the streets, burned police vehicles, killed and assaulted government officers and business owners defending their property, and even seized an area within one city where law and order has given way completely to anarchy. These criminal acts are frequently planned and supported by agitators who have traveled across state lines to promote their own violent agenda.

The latest targets in the violent extremists’ campaign against our country are public monuments, memorials, and statues. Many of their targets show that they are ignorant of our history and seek nothing more than to destroy anything that honors our past and to erase from the public mind any suggestion that our past may be worth honoring. In the last week, vandals toppled a statue of President Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco. To them, it made no difference that President Grant led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War, enforced Reconstruction, fought the Ku Klux Klan, and advocated for the Fifteenth Amendment. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the names of 507 veterans memorialized on a World War II monument were painted over with a symbol of communism. And earlier this month, in Boston, a memorial commemorating an African-American regiment that fought in the Civil War was defaced with graffiti.

Today, President Trump has taken swift action to protect and preserve our Nation’s history from mob violence by signing an executive order directing the enforcement of laws that carry firm penalties of incarceration for those found guilty of desecrating public monuments. This Order will provide assistance for the protection of Federal monuments, memorials, statues, and property. Under this Order, the Federal Government is directed to prosecute any person or entity that damages or defaces religious property and withhold certain Federal support from State and local governments that fail to protect public monuments, memorials, and statues from destruction or vandalism. President Trump will never allow violence to control our streets, rewrite our history, or harm the American way of life.

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