President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday to protect monuments, memorials and statues facing critical review amid a new debate over America's racist beginnings, the AP reports.
Trump earlier this week promised to take action after police prevented protesters from tearing down a statue of Andrew Jackson in a park near the White House.
The measure requests the Secretary of Justice to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any person or group that destroys or vandalizes a monument, commemorative structure or statue. Federal law provides for a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for "willful damage" against federal property.
The decree also provides for a rigorous trial of anyone who incites violence and illegal activities, and threatens to cancel federal resources for state and local law enforcement agencies that fail to protect the monuments.
Trump announced hours earlier on Friday on Twitter that he had enacted the decree and described it as "energetic."
Also on Friday, the president requested via Twitter the arrest of protesters involved in the attempt to tear down the Jackson statue in Lafayette Park.
He retweeted an FBI persecution circular showing photographs of 15 protesters wanted for "vandalizing federal property."
Trump wrote, “There are many people arrested, and many others are wanted for vandalizing federal property in Lafayette Park. Let them sentence 10 years in prison! ”
He also said on Twitter that he has canceled his plans to spend the weekend at his home in New Jersey to stay in Washington "to ensure compliance with public order."
"These arsonists, anarchists, looters and agitators were almost stopped," the president tweeted. "I am doing what is necessary to keep our communities safe, and these people will be brought to justice!"
Protesters tried Monday night to tear down the Jackson statue with ropes and chains. Police repelled them and closed the path to Lafayette Park, which was reopened to the public more than a week after protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota.
On Tuesday, police cleared the entire area around the corner of 16th and H streets, and evicted protesters from the intersection, recently renamed by the city as Plaza Black Lives Matter.
According to statistics released by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), nine people were arrested Tuesday night and added 12 arrests between Monday and Wednesday. There were no arrests related to the protests Thursday, according to information from the MPD.