Trump says there will be ‘retribution’ for those who deface monuments
President Trump on Thursday suggested unruly protesters who deface or topple monuments and statues will likely face “retribution,” likening them to “terrorists.”
Trump sat for a town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity during a trip to Wisconsin. During the question-and- answer session, one attendee asked what the government was doing to “give us back our streets” amid national unrest over racial injustice and police brutality.
“Every night we’re going to get tougher and tougher, and at some point there is going to be retribution because there has to be,” Trump said. “These people are vandals, but they’re agitators, but they’re really, they’re terrorists in a sense.”
The president suggested it may be a matter of partisanship, claiming Wisconsin would not have seen unrest and a statue toppled a night earlier if Republican Scott Walker had been re-elected in 2018 over Gov. Tony Evers (D). He urged Republicans to worry less about being “politically correct,” saying he has encouraged them to speak out against unruly protests.
Trump on Thursday singled out a Washington, D.C., delegate who called for a statue in the city of Abraham Lincoln standing over a freed slave to be removed.
There has been renewed discussion over the past month about whether to take down statues honoring Confederate leaders or rename military bases bearing their names in the wake of nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.
The president has in recent weeks dug in on his opposition to removing statues of controversial figures, citing national “heritage.”
Trump is expected to sign an executive order this week strengthening laws to protect statues and monuments and reinforcing punishments for those who vandalize them. He has in recent days stressed that those who deface them should serve 10 years in prison.
While a number of cities have announced they would remove Confederate symbols from public spaces, some protesters have taken matters into their own hands, defacing or toppling monuments, including a statue of Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va.
Other statues that have also been torn down include those associated more generally with racist policies and rhetoric, such as former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo and various statues of Christopher Columbus.
On Tuesday Demonstrators in Wisconsin, where the town hall took place, brought down two statues outside of the state Capitol, including one of anti-slavery activist Hans Christian Heg, while protesters in San Francisco last week toppled a statue of former president and Union general Ulysses S. Grant.
Trump noted that a Democratic lawmaker was attacked by protesters during the incident, though the president suggested “he was probably out there rooting them on or something.”
On Monday, protesters unsuccessfully tried to bring down a statue of Andrew Jackson outside the White House.
Trump told Hannity that he could see some statues being removed under proper circumstances.
“I can understand certain things being taken down but they ought to go through a process legally,” Trump said. “And then we take it down in some cases, put them in museums or wherever they may go.”