South Dakota governor pledges to protect Mount Rushmore amid statue debate

South Dakota Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases Oglala Sioux Tribe temporarily locks down South Dakota reservation to fight coronavirus South Dakota governor who flew with Trump says she tested negative after coronavirus exposure MORE (R) on Tuesday vowed to not let activists tear down Mount Rushmore in response to conservative alarm about protesters targeting monuments to members of the Confederacy and other historical figures with ties to racism and slavery around the country.

Responding to a tweet from conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, Noem said that the destruction of the federal monument, which is controlled by the Department of the Interior, would not happen on her watch.

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Shapiro's tweet came in response to the destruction, vandalism and occasional official removal of controversial statues in recent weeks as protests have rocked cities nationwide following the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody, was seen on video pleading for help and saying he couldn't breathe as a white officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.

Some jurisdictions such as New York City have opted to remove statues criticized by activists, while other monuments have come under police protection as a result of the demonstrations.

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Many monuments have become the subjects of local disputes after calls for their removal. In Richmond, for example, state officials are battling with local property owners in court over the future of a statue depicting Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Among those targeted in recent days is the statue of former President Jackson in Lafayette Square near the White House. Law enforcement dispersed a crowd of protesters attempting to pull the monument down with ropes on Monday.

The scene evoked a response from President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE, who tweeted, "Numerous people arrested in D.C. for the disgraceful vandalism, in Lafayette Park, of the magnificent Statue of Andrew Jackson, in addition to the exterior defacing of St. John’s Church across the street. 10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!"