Carson calls for local leaders to 'condemn vandalization of statues,' 'dismantle autonomous zones'

Carson calls for local leaders to 'condemn vandalization of statues,' 'dismantle autonomous zones'
© Aaron Schwartz

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonTrump administration ends Obama fair housing rule Castro urges Dems to seize moment on social reform Overnight Health Care: Fauci says 'bizarre' efforts to discredit him only hurt the White House | Alabama to require face masks | House panel probes 'problematic' government contracts MORE called on protesters across the U.S. to cease efforts to dismantle statues of some historical figures and called on state leaders to dismantle "autonomous zones," an apparent reference to the now-dismantled Seattle Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone.

Carson, one of the Trump administration's highest-ranking Black officials, wrote in an op-ed for NBC News that demonstrations resulting in the vandalism or destruction of monuments including a statue of George Washington, a memorial to World War II dead in Washington, D.C., and others should end. His op-ed made no mention of efforts to dismantle or seek the official removal of monuments to members of the Confederacy, which many protests have targeted.

"Sadly, the present day feels different. The news is regularly filled with stories of anarchists and angry mobs showing blatant disregard for America's artifacts and historical sites, desecrating these tributes to our long journey toward liberty and justice for all," he wrote.

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"In Portland, Oregon, we saw a statue of George Washington torn down. In Washington, D.C., we saw the World War II Memorial vandalized. In Madison, Wisconsin, protestors pulled down a statue of Hans Christian Heg, a fierce abolitionist and someone who made the ultimate sacrifice to free slaves," he continued, adding: "This raises the question: What are these people fighting for? Or better yet, what are they fighting against?"

Carson went on in the piece to add that "mayors and governors must immediately condemn the vandalization of statues and dismantle autonomous zones." It was unclear which areas of cities Carson referred to; Seattle police dismantled the CHOP zone earlier this week and no other cities have seen similar "autonomous" zones spring up as a result of protests. The Seattle area occupied by protesters had recently been plagued by late-night violence including several shootings.

A former candidate for president in 2016, Carson has said in recent days that he does not believe "systemic" racism exists in law enforcement in response to questions from journalists about the ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a Black man, died in Minneapolis police custody after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest that was caught on video.

“I grew up in a time when there was real systemic racism," he told CNN's Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperJuan Williams: Keep the spotlight on Trump's COVID failure Chicago mayor: We can't let federal officials 'play police' in our city Coronavirus testing czar: Nobody on task force 'afraid to bring up anything' to Trump MORE last month, while adding that some racism still exists today on a lesser scale.