As protests against racism and police violence continue across the U.S., reports of destruction of historical monuments and statues have become increasingly common.
President Donald Trump has made it clear that such acts will not be tolerated, however, and the National Guard and other federal law enforcement resources have been mobilized in D.C. this week to help protect memorials in the nation’s capital, according to Fox News.
“They remain on standby”
While protester outrage was initially targeted toward statues of Confederate generals, monuments honoring founding fathers, Civil War-era Union leaders, and even a prominent abolitionist have been dismantled.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt requested as many as 400 National Guard members to be deployed with troops ready to defend various landmarks from protesters possibly intent on causing property damage, according to Fox News.
“Since their activation, none of the National Guard members have been dispatched to actual monument locations to provide assistance to the [National Park Police],” Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Christian Mitchell said, according to Fox. “They remain on standby at the D.C. Armory at this time. They will support U.S. Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction.”
Mitchell went on to confirm that troops on the scene would be unarmed and were intended to “serve as a uniformed deterrence” against vandalism while providing assistance with “crowd management.”
According to The Hill, the U.S. Marshals Service has also been requested to lend a hand in the efforts to protect statues both in D.C. and at locations around the country.
Marshals Service Assistant Director Andrew Smith indicated in a statement this week that the agency had been “asked to immediately prepare to provide federal law enforcement support to protect national monuments (throughout the country).”
“Breadth of possible targets”
Smith acknowledged that the assigned task could prove “challenging” in light of the “breadth of possible targets for criminal activity” in locations nationwide.
In addition to destruction by protesters, a growing number of monuments have either been removed or are under review by local governments, NBC News noted.
For his part, President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he believes it is “important for us to understand and remember, even in turbulent and difficult times, and learn” from the history represented in such memorials. The president has also threatened lengthy prison terms for those convicted of vandalizing national monuments.
While the White House response has been met with some criticism from those who believe it is too harsh, many Americans who want to preserve the nation’s historical monuments believe a firm stance against vandalism is warranted.