Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Acting Chief United States Park Police Gregory Monahan on Monday to have him explain what his agency is doing to protect federal statues and monuments.
What began as people tearing down statues glorifying Confederate generals has turned into mobs across the country defacing, destroying, or attempting to destroy memorials honoring historical figures such as Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, and Union soldier Col. Hans Christian Heg.
In Washington, D.C., a group of protesters tried to tear down the statue of President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square, which is just across the street from the White House.
"In recent weeks, Americans have exercised their First Amendment rights to peacefully protest in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Anarchists and left-wing violent extremists, however, have used lawful protests as cover to incite violence and destruction in American cities," Jordan wrote to Monahan in the letter obtained by Townhall.
"In our nation’s capital, rioters have defaced and sought to destroy historic statues of our nation’s greatest leaders, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I respectfully request more information about the steps that the federal law enforcement, including the U.S. Park Police (USPP), is taking to protect federal property from looting and destruction."
Pointing to the violence in Washington, D.C. experienced during the height of the riots in late May and early June, Jordan wrote how Monahan issued a statement on police clearing Lafayette Square on June 1 "in order to conduct a pre-planned perimeter expansion around Lafayette Park and the White House" after days of violence from crowds:
"Despite your explanation that the perimeter expansion was pre-scheduled as a result of the increasing violence, some still accuse the Administration—and especially Attorney General William P. Barr—of clearing the park for a Presidential 'photo-op' at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Attorney General Barr explained that 'the decision to expand the perimeter was made the previous evening' and that expansion was necessary following 'three days of extremely violent demonstrations right across from the White House.' The Attorney General emphasized that 'this canard that this exercise was done to make [the President’s visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church] possible is totally false.'"
In Washington, DC some protesters have exercised their constitutional right to peaceably assemble, while others have engaged in blatant criminal activities. US Park Police and law enforcement officials have endured continued violence. pic.twitter.com/ZyjznZ8VDE— DOI Press Secretary (@DOIPressSec) June 24, 2020
"Since then, violent left-wing agitators and rioters have defaced and sought to destroy historic statues, including some on federal property. These agitators brought down and desecrated statues of Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson around the country and attempted to harm others, including a statue of Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C. The Trump Administration is working to hold these wrongdoers accountable. President Trump signed an executive order on June 26, 2020 requiring the prosecution of these criminals to the fullest extent of the law. On June 27, 2020, the Justice Department charged four individuals for attempting to tear down the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square. U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin explained that the 'charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated.' If convicted of 'willfully injur[ing]' federal property, rioters could face up to ten years in prison."
"I respectfully request that you provide information about the USPP’s decision to expand the perimeter around Lafayette Square on June 1, including the damage to federal property and injuries to federal law enforcement officers caused by rioters. I also ask that you explain the USPP’s work to protect federal property and landmarks in Washington, D.C., and federal landmarks in localities around the country under the USPP’s jurisdiction," Jordan said.