Police cleared protesters from near the White House after they attempted to topple a statue of former President Andrew Jackson.
The 168-year-old bronze statue depicts Jackson riding a horse and is located in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square. Protesters were filmed on Monday grappling over the statue and affixing rope to it in an attempt to heave it to the ground. “KILLER” was spray-painted on the monument’s white marble pedestal.
With a helicopter flying low overhead, police soon moved to shut down the area, deploying pepper spray to push back the demonstrators. Photos and videos from the scene outside the White House showed protesters getting treated after being hit with the irritant.
The action on Monday was the first major clash between police and protesters near the White House since June 1, when authorities used smoke canisters and pepper balls to drive protesters from Lafayette Square. The Secret Service then maintained a path so that the president could walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he was controversially photographed holding up a Bible. The Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General is now probing the actions of Park Police during the incident.
St. John’s was also the site of vandalism on Monday, with demonstrators scrawling the letters “B-H-A-Z” on the white pillars in front of the temple. “BHAZ,” or the “Black House Autonomous Zone,” is an apparent nod to Seattle’s notorious “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest,” known as “CHOP,” which has been around for about two weeks but is soon coming to an end.
Protesters used fences and barricades to try and create a perimeter near the White House. It was unclear how large of an area they blocked off.
Police and demonstrators clashed earlier on Monday when authorities decided to clear Black Lives Matter Plaza of several tents that had been set up.
“They were creating a potential safety hazard,” Washington, D.C., Police Chief Peter Newsham said about the operation to clear the tents, according to the Washington Post. Newsham said two of his officers were assaulted, and two people were arrested.
“We can’t have people setting up tents on public streets,” the police chief said.
Sen. Tom Cotton reacted to the demonstrations by calling for President Trump to use the federal government to stop Jackson’s statue from being removed, a reiteration of his earlier calls on Monday for the Justice Department to prosecute those who tear down statues and monuments.
“It’s about time DC police showed up to stop the mob. If Muriel Bowser won’t allow the police to do their job, @realDonaldTrump should deploy federal law enforcement to protect this 168-year-old statue and every other landmark in our nation’s capital,” the Arkansas Republican tweeted.
“And, by the way, criminal masterminds, you’re destroying a statue on federal property that commemorates the military service of Andrew Jackson, a crime that carries a 10-year sentence under the Veterans Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act. And you’re on tape. Lock ‘em up!” he added.
And, by the way, criminal masterminds, you’re destroying a statue on federal property that commemorates the military service of Andrew Jackson, a crime that carries a 10-year sentence under the Veterans Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act. And you’re on tape.
Lock ‘em up!
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR)
June 23, 2020
On Friday, which marked Juneteenth, a statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike was torn down by demonstrators in the district and lit on fire. Police reportedly looked on as protesters tore the statue of the Confederate figure down, drawing the ire of the president.
“The D.C. Police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down & burn. These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our Country! @MayorBowser,” Trump wrote Friday night.