Eyewitness accounts and videos posted on social media indicated that police were on the scene, but didn’t intervene.
WASHINGTON — Four hundred National Guard troops have been activated in the nation’s capital to guard monuments and infrastructure amid protests over racial injustice and some demonstrators’ attempts to pull down statues.
“The District of Columbia National Guard has sent unarmed troops to guard monuments and other infrastructure in support of local law enforcement agencies,” said Washington, D.C. National Guard spokesperson Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Craig Clapper on Wednesday.
Clapper said not all of the troops would be on the street at the same time, and Army spokesperson Col. Sunset Belinsky noted that none of the soldiers had been sent yet to the monuments to support the National Park Police.
“They remain on standby at the National Guard Armory,” Belinsky said.
The activation comes as some protesters across the country have tried to remove statues related to the Confederacy and other statues following the death of George Floyd.
Protesters at Lafayette Park near the White House tried to remove the park’s statue of Andrew Jackson, who, as president, removed Native American tribes in the Southeastern United States from their ancestral lands.
The park has been the site of large protests since Floyd’s death and Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed a section of street adjacent to the park Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Protesters in the city pulled down a statue of Confederate general Albert Pike last week, drawing a rebuke from President Donald Trump, who called for the protesters to be “immediately arrested.”
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s at-large member of Congress, introduced legislation to move a statue of President Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln Park in the district into a museum.
The statue “didn’t take into account the views of African Americans. It shows. Blacks too fought to end enslavement,” she wrote on Twitter.
The statue was unveiled in 1876 and built using donations from freed slaves, according to the National Park Service. The statue’s design, however, which features Lincoln standing and holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation before a kneeling Black man, has been controversial ever since its dedication.
Abolitionist Frederick Douglas gave the keynote address at the statue’s dedication, criticizing the statue’s focus on Lincoln.
“You are the children of Abraham Lincoln.” Douglas said at the time, addressing a crowd of over 25,000, including President Ulysses S. Grant, according to the Park Service. “You are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step–children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity.”
The designers of the Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park in DC didn’t take into account the views of African Americans. It shows. Blacks too fought to end enslavement. That’s why I’m introducing a bill to move this statue to a museum. pic.twitter.com/A0MOnISH1N
— Eleanor Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) June 23, 2020
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Tuesday evening on Fox News he had requested the troops and instructed the Department of the Interior to erect a fence around Lafayette Park.
“We will protect these places with dispatch and severity,” he wrote on Twitter.
Trump said Tuesday he would be issuing an executive order to protect monuments and statues, though he offered few details.
“We are looking at long-term jail sentences for these vandals and these hoodlums and these anarchists and agitators,” he told reporters on the White House South Lawn.
Contributing: Courtney Subramanian and Michael Collins
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