Four men have been charged for attempting to topple a statue of President Andrew Jackson near the White House last week. The suspects have been charged with the destruction of federal property, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Saturday.
The four men were at protests at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on Monday. The men attempted to use ropes to topple the bronze statue of Andrew Jackson, who served as the seventh president of the United States.
As police attempted to protect the statue, there were clashes with the crowd. Two U.S. Park Police officers were injured, and two rioters were arrested.
Clashes with Police in front of Andrew Jackson statue https://t.co/VwZqdORdex— Richie🎥McG🍿 (@Richie🎥McG🍿)1592874066.0
On Thursday, the U.S. Park Police released photos of 15 suspects who were alleged to be connected to defacing the Jackson monument that including spray-painting "killer" and "scum" on the marble base of the memorial.
"The U.S. Park Police and FBI are attempting to identify the individuals responsible for Destruction of Property and other related crimes," the bulletin read.
Also please see the USPP bulletins at: https://t.co/tCHFxEXCJM https://t.co/h7KH2MDnj5— USPPNEWS (@USPPNEWS)1593169349.0
On Saturday, the DOJ announced federal charges against four suspects — who hail from D.C., Maine, Maryland, and Virginia. The suspects are Lee Michael Cantrell, 47; Connor Matthew Judd, 20; Ryan Lane, 37; and Graham Lloyd, 37.
Based on videos, prosecutors allege Cantrell was attempting to "pry the statue off its base with a wooden board and trying to pull the statue down with the aid of a yellow strap."
The complaint alleges that Judd is seen on video trying to pull down the statue, and that Lane is seen on video affixing a rope to one part of the statue and then pulling on another rope tied to the statue. The complaint also alleges that video of the incident shows Lloyd as he breaks off and destroys the wheels of cannons located at the base of the statue. Lloyd is also captured on video pulling on ropes in an effort to topple the statue, and handing a hammer to an unidentified individual involved in the incident.
Judd was arrested by the FBI on Friday at his residence "without incident," according to David Bernhardt, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Judd appeared in Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Saturday. The other suspects remain at large, according to U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin.
"This office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation's capital," Sherwin said.
Rioters targeted the Jackson statue because he owned slaves. The Democratic president, who served from 1829 to 1837, also signed the Indian Removal Act that forcibly relocated nearly 50,000 Native Americans, which is now called "The Trail of Tears."
The federal charges arrived one day after Trump signed an executive order cracking down on protesters who vandalize or topple American statues. Trump's executive order instructs federal law enforcement to prosecute "anyone that destroys or vandalizes a monument, memorial, or statue" to the "fullest extent permitted under Federal law."
The maximum penalty for "willful injury" of federal property is 10 years in prison under the Veterans' Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003.
.....This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism al… https://t.co/20tH4QtIA4— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1592909206.0
President @realDonaldTrump has signed an executive order to ensure anyone that destroys or vandalizes a monument, m… https://t.co/Xi2LFRiVXU— The White House (@The White House)1593222721.0
Last week, there was a movement to remove the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C., that features Abraham Lincoln and a freed slave.
Earlier this month, vandals toppled a nearly 100-year-old statue of George Washington. Rioters also ripped down statues dedicated to Ulysses S. Grant, Francis Scott Key, and an 18th-century Spanish priest who was canonized as a saint.